Women in shipping – why are there more males than females?
written by Callum Beaumont
In my earlier career, I worked as a Sale & Purchase shipbroker in my family business. My mother, Sue Cordell Beaumont was a highly successful S&P Broker for 10+ years and I saw first-hand the challenges she faced being a woman in shipping, I also witnessed her many great achievements.
Between 2015 and 2019 I then helped run the annual Trainee Broker Graduate programme for the world’s largest shipbroking company Clarksons. I’m sure they won’t mind me sharing this… the male-to-female application ratio was approximately 70/30 out of a consistent candidate pool of 2000+.
If we now take a look at the candidates my agency, Cordell Beaumont has placed within digital and traditional shipping companies over the last 3 years… 28 of our last 98 placements have been female.. so approx. 30%.
Why are women still outnumbered by roughly 3:1 in maritime and digital shipping markets?
In my view, there are 5 key contributing factors:
1. Country Cultures & Traditions
Certain countries have more male-centric traditions, such as Greece and Japan. For generations, these two example countries have played a huge role in the shipowning market and the perception of their beliefs has had a ripple effect across supporting professions like Shipbroking, Chartering and Maritime Software as a Service.
2. Impact on Family Life and Relationships
From my experience, the highly successful females in shipping have had to make large and often personal sacrifices to reach mid-senior levels. Shipping can (and often is) a tireless 24/7 lifestyle. Spouses or partners of aspiring females who are not from shipping may not understand, or like the time and commitment shipping can demand. Females may also have to weigh up whether or not they are in a position to leave their roles and start a family. Some organisations may not have strong benefits or a work culture that can support working mothers.
3. Attitudes of Buyers & Management
Some client or end-user decision-makers may and sadly often do prefer to speak with males over females when discussing key matters. This could be because they themselves are from a more male-centric culture. e.g a shipbroker trying to sell a vessel to a principal, or a software sales professional presenting their solution to a seasoned technical shipping director.
4. Marketing of Career Opportunities & Lifestyle
When compared to rival industries the maritime space has simply not been as visible or as attractive to graduates and young professionals. The digitization in shipping is certainly creating more opportunities for males and females which I can really see helping improve the ratio, but the issue is further compounded by the IT space also being heavily male-dominated.
5. Not Enough Research or Accountability
From my perspective, shipowoners, shipbrokers, charterers and SaaS companies simply don’t have the time, or in some cases the incentive to really focus on hiring more women in shipping. Fantastic organisations such as WISTA International and the IMO have really helped drive the awareness of the role women play in shipping, but on the whole, I have not seen any mass surveys or reports that ask women why they have or have not decided to pursue a career in shipping.
In order for us to help attract more females into our shipping markets, I feel we need to take a deep look at each of these 5 contributing factors. This may help shape business culture and the way maritime is marketed to increase more female participation.