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The art of the possible: forging a culture of diversity at UK Hydrographic Office

1 October 2021

Insights on gender balance initiatives from the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) were shared at the Women in Shipping Virtual Summit 2021.

UKHO chief customer officer Cathrine Armour said having a diverse workforce is key to ensuring UKHO has the broad range of skills and approaches needed to support commercial shipping and enable safe, secure and thriving oceans.

UKHO is a world-leading centre for ocean hydrography, and an executive agency of the UK Ministry of Defence. It is also the primary charting agency for the UK and 70 other countries around the world.

'Our navigational data is used in charts and products carried by more than 90% of the global fleet and is trusted by mariners to support safety of life at sea,' said Ms Armour.

Because the data UKHO holds spans a huge range of marine features, it operates at the intersection of several ocean industries, and its information is therefore vital not only for shipping industry, but for defence, international development, as well as habitat protection and ultimately for the power, potential and preservation of seas, she said.

Coming from a science and technology background, Ms Armour said the advent of data in shipping had enabled her to transition her career from one focussed on terrestrial geo data – data about places – to emerging use of marine geo spatial data beyond navigation. This includes autonomous navigation, data for analytics and AI and machine learning.

'It is this and in the emergence of such data and technology where nature and impact of gender diversity and equality is recognised and provides empowerment in decision-making.'

An integral part of success comes from valuing different perspectives, said Ms Armour.

UKHO had taken significant steps to attract, retain and nurture a diverse range of people across the organisation. This includes offering support to women returning to work after career breaks; taking measures to eliminate gender bias in recruitment; ensuring senior managers had targets towards diversity, as well as an award-winning STEM outreach programme (of which 69% of its STEM ambassadors are women); and its Women's Network steering group.


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