for Career-Building: How Women in the Maritime Industry Can Use Education to Improve Knowledge, Skills, Organizational Learning and Development, and Knowledge Transfer

Fig. 1
Relationship between society, education, and employment. Education develops skills. Women with skills have an access to employment, hence change the societal biases levelled on women

Education takes place within, and occasionally against, the context of larger social trends. Admittedly, this model is extremely simplified, but it is in general alignment with what the existing educational literature has to say about the relationships between social context, education, and employment. Each of these three areas can be understood in terms of potential. Based on some of the theories and findings explained later in the paper, it can be safely concluded that potential is something that is developed steadily over the lifecycle. In terms of women who could be potential members of the global maritime industry, or leaders within it, the lifecycle starts in the social context in which the woman is born. A review of the literature indicates that, in the vast majority of cases, there is an existing social bias against the participation of women in the global maritime industry (Grider 2013; Horck 2010; Pallis and Ng 2011). Some of these reasons are as follows. First, the global maritime industry often requires employees to be away from their families for long stretches of time, and women have historically been designated as caretakers of the family (Schultz 1990; Grider 2013). This situation has continued to portray the maritime industry as a men’s world.

Second, the global maritime industry has been tainted with patriarchal ideas of men as hardy sailors and capable captains, carrying out physical work and exercising effective leadership of a kind, a situation Grider (2013) argues as a false claim.

Third, Grider (2013) notes the existence of many religious and social biases against the idea of an isolated workplace on a vessel that contains both men and women. This perception should place demands on the maritime industry to show cultural awareness and sensitivity, and promote leadership that induces cooperation and collaboration. In the model above, these kinds of ideas can be classified as part of the conditioning of potential; any given woman born anywhere on Earth has the same potential as a man to be a member of the global maritime industry, or a leader within it, but her social circumstances—particularly the gendered nature of those circumstances—constrain what she can or will do with that potential. The industry needs to understand that what is good for one sex is good for the other. The perception that some woman cannot perform certain duties should not reflect to the entire women population. Women ought to be hired for their skills and capabilities, and not only for their gender, or to provide diversity, or fill quotas.

Education develops potential (Morley 2007; Morley and Lugg 2009). In the case of women, education can fill in the deficiencies, or fight the negative conditioning of society vis-à-vis the female role in the global maritime industry. Education gives women the tools they need to overcome the counter-weights imposed on them by society (Morley 2007; Morley and Lugg 2009); in particular, education gives women knowledge, skills, organizational learning and development foundations, and knowledge-transfer abilities that can prepare them for employment, which is the actual exercise of potential. There are notable examples of women for whom education was the key to entering the global maritime industry, especially at higher responsibility levels than usually offered women in this industry. This relationship also goes the other way, as employers who are happy with graduates, make investments on their return through education. Thus, if maritime companies see that educated women are doing well in the workplace, they will directly and indirectly support maritime universities, such as the World Maritime University (WMU) and other institutions, in continuing to train the future maritime workforce.

Finally, is the reciprocal relationship that exists between social and employment contexts. As seen earlier, social context can determine employment practices, for example the kind of practices that discriminate against the promotion of women to positions of higher authority in the global maritime industry, or even against the hiring of women. However, when employers observe that women succeed at all levels in the workplace, then these examples change the social context. Whittock (2002) notes that social institutions begin to loosen their bias when they see that women are doing well.

This model provides an idea of how education sits between society and employment, playing the critical role of developing female potential and acting as the catalyst for gender equity in maritime employment. Having understood these relationships between society, education, and the global maritime workplace at a high level, the following part of the paper examines how education can break down barriers to entering workplaces, especially at positions of greater leadership.

3 The Role of Education: A Closer Look

In the title of this paper, maritime education is related to four specific characteristics: (a) knowledge, (b) skills, (c) organizational learning and development, and (d) knowledge transfer. The third section of the paper examines where the current paradigm of maritime education succeeds—and where it struggles—in each of these areas.

First, in terms of knowledge, maritime education can be given a high grade. Men and women are taught the exactly same subject matter, in the exactly same way. There is neither overt nor covert discrimination in pedagogy, curricula, or even admission standards. Therefore, the degree of knowledge acquisition for both women and men in the maritime industry is not the overriding issue.

In terms of skill, educational institutions should think more broadly about the special needs, constraints, and strengths of women in the global maritime industry. As pointed out by Horck (2010), women who enter the global maritime industry are more likely to leave before they have put in the time necessary to rise to higher levels of responsibility. Gekara (2009) notes the same observations. Some of the reasons contributing to this trend, as put forward by Dragomir et al. (2012) include: failure of the industry to consider women as having the same capabilities as their counterparts, sexual harassment, long times at sea, increased workload, fatigue, and complexity in handling mechanical equipment. Gills (2002) attributes the reasons to family factors such as pregnancy and marriage, or the lure of alternative attractive professions onshore. Incentives such as maternity leave, and shorter intervals of time at sea, could encourage more women into the industry and enable them to meet their family obligations as well.

This problem can be conceptualized as one of the skills; A particular set of vocational and emotional skills may be helpful for women to thrive in the transition from the educational environment to the workplace, and one of these skills has to do with managing the difficulties of a workplace that is still dominated by men and that can put significant stress on women’s perception of themselves, thus making them self-conscious and self-doubting. It is important to point out that this issue is not one of knowledge; women who graduate from WMU and like institutions enter the workforce with the necessary vocational knowledge, but not necessarily the emotional and vocational skills that can sustain them, as they try to establish themselves in the global maritime industry.

Women empowerment is vital to the attainment of all goals associated with human rights development, equality, security, and safety. Even though a lot has been attained at the level of policy initiative on women empowerment and gender, quality implementation has not become effective and systematic, as expected. There is a significant gap between national level actions and global policies in dealing with the problems women undergo in the maritime industry. The results of failure to deal with gender equality issues in the maritime profession are felt by women all over the world. For instance, the continuing inequitable access to employment and education, the severe under-presentation in every decision-making aspect, as well as the unacceptable degrees of violence against women, factors seen by Weintrit (2011) as both life threatening and disempowering.

There ought to be a framework towards development elements that empowers women. This comprises the development of abilities and making sure there is access to necessary opportunities and resources. Others include the provision of leadership opportunities and roles in decision-making, and ensuring safety and security. Various groups and actors need to act to put in place these elements, which has to happen in a human rights approach framework. Couper (1999) argues that efforts to address these capabilities should start at a very early stage and should go on right through the life cycle.

Organizations such as IMO, ILO, and ITF have established initiatives that integrate women in the maritime industry. These institutions also offer training opportunities to match the requirements and needs of women. Governments must also play a role in developing and implementing policies that offer equitable access to education and health for boys and girls. Equal access to specialties, subjects, technology and science inclusive of communication technologies and new information, are vital. The teaching materials, curricula, and teacher training should be sensitive to gender, a factor seen by Magramo and Eler (2012

Only gold members can continue reading. Log In or Register to continue