Last week we held our 2022 Conference in Copenhagen, kindly hosted by A. P. Moller – Maersk. Entitled ‘DEI in Maritime – Playing Your Part’, this was a hugely stimulating day of debate, discussion and sharing of ideas. We’re grateful to everyone that took the time to join us, and confident that everyone also got a lot from it; from making new connections to swapping perspectives on a topic that we’re all passionate about – making real progress on DEI in maritime.
What did we learn? It is impossible to do justice to such a rich day of presentations, workshops and conversations (if you missed it, hopefully we’ll see you next year!) but there were certainly a number of key themes and lessons that emerged from the day.
In this article – part one of our summary of the day – we’ll share a few highlights from what we learned. More to follow in part two.
Perhaps the headline from the day is that we’re now seeing real progress on DEI taking place in shipping. Partly driven by necessity, but also thanks to the leadership from shipping’s DEI pioneers and champions, we can see shipping starting to move from intent to action. This was evidenced over the course of the conference, both in the tangible commitments being made by organisations, and the data being shared on progress at a company and industry level.
However, this momentum has been hard-earned and all of us need to work hard to maintain it. We can’t afford for this progress to stall. How do we do this? Here are a few themes that emerged from the day.
1. Shipping businesses may compete for talent, but we should collaborate on diversity.
As a shipping community, we should focus on the opportunities to share experiences and best practice, to learn from each other, and inspire one another, in order to grow shipping’s talent pool. Whilst we will compete to attract and retain talent, we all benefit a wider, deeper talent pool and there is no need to be proprietorial about our good ideas. We all benefit if we can collaborate on DEI.
2. DEI is an agent of change and a tool for securing progress.
More diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces will help to stimulate progress, innovation and change in all other parts of the business. This includes our hopes of tackling such defining issues as decarbonisation – for so long seen as a great challenge to shipping, but now increasingly regarded also as an opportunity. DEI will also help to lock in the progress in other areas, such as with an organisation’s ESG initiatives.
3. DEI is good business!
DEI makes business sense. For example, when it comes to shipping’s shrinking talent pool, it makes more sense to invest in hiring and developing a wider pool of talent for your organisation, instead of trying to recruit your way out of the problem. DEI is part of the solution, here and in other areas of organisational strategy, and only through aligning DEI with the wider business strategy can the best outcomes be achieved.
4. DEI is a strategic priority and needs to treat it accordingly.
If DEI is accepted as a strategic priority for an organisation – as it should be – then it follows that it should be treated as seriously as any other commercial imperative. This means applying the same approach, processes and incentives that help to drive progress in other areas, such as setting internal and external targets, and reporting standards, resourcing it properly, employing professionals, linking performance to pay, etc.
5. Data is key for accountability – but beware of bias in how we interpret it.
Only through data will your DEI strategy be a fact-based, objective process, underpinned by a reliable dataset. Anything else will be partial and subjective. However, whilst hard data is hard to dispute, how we analyse and interpret them can be prone to bias. This interpretation must be done carefully to avoid jumping to the wrong conclusions, misunderstanding the causes behind the data, and reaching for the wrong levers.
We’ll be sharing some more of the key themes and insights in part two of our report on the 2022 DEI Conference, to be published very soon.