Nautilus members and staff drew attention to the health challenges facing women at sea during the 2023 TUC Women's Conference held around International Women's Day.
On 9 March, Council member Catherine Wannell told the conference of UK unions that the Union had recently heard from one female seafarer who had 'resigned a long-serving career at sea to work ashore after feeling self-conscious and unsupported when suffering menopausal symptoms.'
During the crew change crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Nautilus also heard from female crew who had run out of sanitary products. Ships are required to carry medical stores; however, sanitary products are not deemed a statutory requirement, and were unavailable.
The Nautilus delegation – consisting of strategic organiser Rachel Lynch and members Catherine Wannell and Christine McLean – were supporting a motion proposed by the RMT union calling for a campaign countering male bias for women's health needs. The motion also spoke out for the use of more inclusive language in official documents.
'While Nautilus actively incorporates gender neutral language within all aspects of its work, if we are to encourage more women into the maritime sector, we must be treated as equals,' concluded Ms Wannell. 'Awareness must be raised on women's health in text books, and gender neutral language must be adopted throughout legislation and conventions – right through to seafarers' employment agreements and job titles.'
The motion was unanimously passed by delegates to the TUC Women's Conference.