London Shipping Week showcases shipping’s continued diversity problem
Just 20% of women were panellists or speakers at the week’s two major events, serving as a public barometer of inclusion challenges in 2023
‘Senior leaders are quite scared to take on the topic, they’re a bit apprehensive in case they say the wrong thing. What I say to them is, don’t be scared,’ says Ian Hampton, chair of the diversity in maritime taskforce for Maritime UK
CONFERENCES at London International Shipping Week showcased the continued lack of diversity in global maritime sectors with women under-represented as speakers and panellists compared with other industries.
Women comprised 20% of speakers or panellists, or 17 of 83 people, who were on the stage at the two biggest conferences over the week-long event, according to analysis of conference programmes.
Twelve of the 58 speakers or panellists were women at the Capital Link London forum, held on September 12, Lloyd’s List analysis shows. Six of the women appeared on one panel that discussed sanctions. A further two were UK ministers.
At the official London International Shipping Week event on September 13 at the International Maritime Organization, women comprised seven of the 21 speakers.
The statistics served as a public barometer of the diversity, equity and inclusion challenges still facing the sector, which lags other traditionally male-dominated areas such as the oil and gas sector using the same proxy.
Women comprised 30% of speakers or panellists at three main conferences held last January in London at International Energy week, a similar event in size and structure which is also male dominated.
Women’s representation in shipping was fragmented by industry sector said Niki Alexandrou, Athens-based counsel for Norton Rose Fulbright at a forum in London this week that discussed diversity, equity and inclusion in shipping.
About 63% of shore-based maritime jobs at junior training level were held by women, she said. This figure dropped to 14% at heads of department level and 27% for C-suite positions.
“However, we are beginning to see more women in leadership positions,” she said.
The event entitled “Turning DEI talk into action” was held at Norton Rose Fulbright’s offices during the week.
“You have to start with a discussion,” said Ian Hampton, chair of the diversity in maritime taskforce for UK Maritime, who also works for Stena Line as chief people, communications and sustainability officer and chief operating officer.
“You have to get to the top leaders. On one of the platforms I sit on, I’m constantly encouraging Maritime UK top CEOs and top leaders of businesses to actually talk about it in the management teams.
“There is some reticence. Senior leaders are quite scared to take the topic on, they're a bit apprehensive in case they say the wrong thing. What I say to them is, don't be scared.”
Anastassia Tcherneva, Netherlands-based head of shipping for the ABN AMRO Bank, said the energy transition facing shipping required cognitive diversity.
“In order to recognise new ideas, in order to be receptive as the world is changing so fast, you need to have different viewpoints on the table,” she said.
The bank had Key Performance Indicator targets for diversity, she said, and a high awareness at board level of what was needed. Along with Norton Rose Fulbright, the bank signed the first diversity linked loan, for Navigator Gas, earlier this year.
“At the end of the day we have to walk the walk. So I go beyond those KPIs,” Tcherneva said.
“We moved to a larger organisation on an institutional level last year, and I thought that this is my moment to get diversity going.
“I had a lot of resistance. I had to really fight for it. But I’m determined, there's nothing that will stop this slope.
“Gender is not the only component,” she added. “I also have a great team of very experienced colleagues, without whom I wouldn't be where I am today.”
Katharina Stanzel, managing director of independent tanker owners’ association Intertanko, said she had a gender-neutral recruitment process and practised inclusivity in all areas including background and gender.
Leadership wasn’t about gender but authenticity and courage, she said.
“If you don't have the right culture and values to make sure everybody is welcome, then it's just a benign policy,” said Hampton.
“You can't make the business successful just by writing policies but sometimes you do need policies, because it's a bit like legislation.”
The energy transition for shipping brings an opportunity to welcome women to shipping, because the skill set is less reliant on experience at sea, the panel heard.
“LISW takes diversity very seriously and has a diversity representative on its steering group to ensure this important element remains at the forefront of the organisation of the week,” said Sean Moloney, Director of Shipping Innovation, owners of London International Shipping Week.
“We had seven women represented on the main sessions of the headline conference and it should also be noted that of the 21 speakers on the day, 10 nationalities were represented. LISW works very closely with WISTA (the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association) and also has industry leading diversity representatives on the LISW23 steering group and board of advisors,” Moloney continued.
Capital Link CEO Nicolas Bornozis told Lloyd's List: “We embrace diversity and work closely with our sponsors and participating companies to secure the best speakers on each topic and to enhance women’s representation in our events. The discussion surrounding diversity in shipping is significant. We hope that the conversation can steer the industry to focus more on this topic.”