To mark last week’s International Women’s Day, we were proud to host a panel discussion with an inspiring line-up of contributors to explore the ‘the business case for DEI’.
The conversation spanned a number of critical issues around the role that diversity, equity and inclusivity (DEI) can play as an enabler of business success in the maritime industry, including why DEI is essential for a successful and attractive maritime industry, exploring a number of gender and cultural data insights into the value of DEI, what is being done that works well and the consequences of inaction.
The session was moderated by our co-founder, Heidi Heseltine, who was joined by Eman Abdalla, Global Operations & Supply Chain Director at Cargill Ocean Transportation, Natalia Alvarez, VP, Senior Client Programmes Manager at SwissRe, David Barrow, VP, South Asia at Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore, and Magdalene Chew, Founding Director at AsiaLegal LLC.
Our panellists shared their professional insights and knowledge on how the maritime industry can capitalise on the business case for DEI and unlock the power of more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. But more than this, they also offered up their own powerful stories drawn from their careers in the maritime industry. We’re grateful to them for sharing their personal experiences on the challenges they have encountered and witnessed along the way.
It is hard to pick just a few talking points from what was a fantastic discussion, but it was enlightening to hear a number of our panellists describe how they ‘fell’ into the maritime sector, rather than actively choosing it as a career. This raises some interesting questions about how we can position the sector as a desirable career destination outside of those countries such as Greece where it enjoys a high profile.
Our panellists also spoke about the importance of visible representation and what a difference it can make to see other people like you within an organisation, at a networking event, or on the podium at an industry conference.
In a competitive recruitment market, there was some excellent advice on the need to be constantly recruiting for upcoming vacancies, with a ‘campaign mentality’ to attracting the diverse talent that your organisation needs. This was exemplified by a great example of a successful recruitment campaign to hire women into trading roles, which remains a very male-dominated position.
Training, mentoring and development are also vital when it comes to creating a pathway for your future leaders. There are signs that this is starting to happen more and more, but the panel highlighted that it needs to cascade to all levels of the organisation, as every employee has potential and a role to play.
When it comes to DEI, actions speak louder than words – but words also matter. Our discussion highlighted the need to communicate internally on the steps you are taking as an organisation, the progress being made and the changes you are putting in place. It is essential that your team can see the work that you are doing.
This year’s International Women’s Day called on us all to #BreakTheBias and our panel also discussed the biases that continue to be found in all areas of the maritime sector; not just around gender equality, but in many other areas of inequality. These biases require deliberate action at every stage – starting with your job descriptions and job advertisements. One of our panellists shared a fascinating example of how reviewing the language in their job specifications and adverts had made a difference to attracting a wider pool of candidates.
To return to our headline theme, our panellists made clear that the business case for DEI is beyond doubt. We heard some compelling examples of how deliberate strategies that have sought to build more diverse and inclusive teams have delivered tangible commercial outcomes. Put simply, an effective DEI strategy gives your organisation a competitive advantage.
It is always encouraging to learn of the progress being made by many maritime organisations when it comes to developing DEI strategies that are starting to make a real difference. However, it is not a quick process and there is no guarantee that every initiative will succeed. By sharing experiences, we can learn from the successes, as well as when things don’t go to plan. What we have consistently seen is that those that tailor their strategy and their DEI initiatives to their business get better results. There is no ‘off the shelf’ approach that will work for everyone.
We also know that there are also lots of organisations that would like to take their first step, but aren’t sure where to start. If we can help your organisation to support greater equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our sincere thanks to our panellists, as well as to all of those who tuned in to watch live. If you missed it, you can watch it back on our YouTube channel here.