Held on 8 March each year, International Women's Day is a significant date in the calendar of the trade union movement, and an opportunity for the maritime industry to redouble its efforts to recruit and retain more female seafarers. SARAH ROBINSON, DEBBIE CAVALDORO and DEBORAH MCPHERSON report on a series of events and announcements organised around IWD 2019.
Mutual support for members at the Nautilus Women’s Forum
A lively meeting of the Nautilus Women's Forum was held on International Women's Day in the Union's London office, where members discussed the importance of mentoring and sharing experiences.
One member pointed out that she had never worked on a ship with any other women in the crew. This meant she had had no opportunity to talk to someone in the same position as her about the particular challenges facing women at sea, and had little idea how other female seafarers had developed their careers and balanced work with family life.
By coming to the Women's Forum, this member was immediately able to make some new female friends at different stages of their careers who were happy to act as informal mentors.
This is an extremely valuable aspect of the Forum, the members agreed, and more action is needed to encourage women to come to the meetings - and to stay in touch the rest of the time.
To help achieve this aim, the Forum's chair, Captain Jessica Tyson, will be leading efforts to set up a private group (or groups) on social media for female Nautilus members to ask questions, share experiences and even arrange to meet up for a drink. An initiative of this kind has been tried in the past with only limited success, but it was agreed that advances in technology, combined with the Union's drive to promote mentoring, make this a good moment for another attempt.
An interesting example of how women’s experiences at sea can differ from men's was highlighted by two Forum members who had needed to get their work clothes altered at home to fit properly.
This issue has affected many female seafarers, and is not just about having smaller sizes available of boiler suits and protective clothing: a garment designed and shaped for a man's physique can sometimes sit so poorly on a women’s body that it puts her in danger.
Mentoring schemes could provide individuals with advice on how to raise issues like this with their employer, and Nautilus can also provide support - either directly to a member or by reminding employers of their obligations to the safety of all staff. The dedicated email address for female members to contact the Union is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Women's Forum meeting was followed by an additional event to celebrate women's contribution to the maritime workplace, as members joined Nautilus staff for an International Women’s Day buffet lunch.
- the next meeting of the Nautilus Women's Forum will take place at the Union's General Meeting in Rotterdam in October 2019.
- members are also invited to take part in an online survey commissioned by the Fleetwood Female Forum
Top image: L-R Nautilus staff member Sarah Robinson with Women's Forum members Lisa Jenkins, Dawn Franklyn, Jessica Tyson and Lorna Baird at the Union's IWD lunch following the Forum meeting Image: June Cattini-Walker
The Union's motion called on the TUC to help secure progress on mentoring