of Ecuadorian Women in the Maritime Oil Transportation Sector

Fig. 1
Per capita GDP evolution in Ecuador between 1960 and 2010

Clearly, the Ecuadorian economy’s growth has been based on the exploitation and export of oil. However, the volatility of international oil prices has had an impact on the economy, making the process of economic growth dependent on external variables such as the probability of finding larger oil reserves, or the expectation of oil prices to rise, rather than relying on a change of its development model, one more focused on increasing local production, the substitution of some imported commodities and procuring to provide people with a decent income to strengthen the domestic markets.

Currently, Ecuador is the largest exporter of crude oil in the American Pacific Rim. It has a production of around 550,000 barrels per day, of which about 400,000 are exported; representing 46 % of total exports. Coffee followed with 24 %, bananas with 14 % and the rest is flowers and tuna, among the main products (Ecuadorian Central Bank 2013). Ecuador’s National Oil Company owns and operates three oil refineries to process crude oil; however, given the low complexity of them, domestic production of derivatives is not enough to cope with domestic demand, so it is necessary to import products.

In 2013, Ecuador exported 130 million barrels of oil. Sixty-eight percent of this volume went to the United States, while 32 % went to Peru, Chile and Asia. Transportation of crude oil and petroleum products is performed in oil tankers of different sizes, ranging from 40,000 up to 200,000 tons.

Transportation of Oil Exports and the National Ecuadorian Oil Fleet, EP FLOPEC

Oil transportation, according to Ecuadorian law, is totally reserved for companies in which the Ecuadorian state controls at least 51 % of the stock. Currently, only one company meets this requirement, FLOPEC, a shipping company established in 1973, owned and run by the Ecuadorian Navy, that enjoys the unique position to operate in a monopolistic market allowing it to determine, regulate and control freights.

FLOPEC is a state-owned company whose organizational structure is hierarchical, led by a general manager, area managers and department heads. This hierarchical structure slows the process of decision making. However, given that structure and the characteristics of the market in which it operates, it needs the flexibility of a private company. The oil transport market is highly competitive, where the law of supply and demand determines the market dynamics.

FLOPEC has a monopoly on the transportation of oil exported from Ecuador; however it not only operates in the Ecuadorian market, but also does so in the international market, where it must necessarily compete in order to maintain a solid position and a market share. Approximately 50 % of FLOPEC’s operational income comes from freights not involving Ecuadorian ports. FLOPEC has been successfully competing with others because of its unique position in the Ecuadorian market and due to the fact that Ecuador is the only south Pacific country that produces oil and has its own tanker fleet.

In the early 1970s, waterborne crude oil transportation was a brand new activity in Ecuador and, at that time, there were no trained people to deal with commercial, technical and financial aspects necessary to run a shipping company. Therefore, at the beginning of the existence of the company, personnel provided by FLOPEC’s partners, Kawasaki of Japan, were the pioneers in this activity (all men) occupying key positions (chartering, technical maintenance, etc.) and hired young Ecuadorian personnel, with incipient academic background, especially women, to perform secretarial tasks and fulfill clerical functions.

FLOPEC has been managed by a Board of Directors composed of active navy officers, headed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy who appoints the General Manager as well as the rest of Officers—all of them retired navy officers—without following a selection process based on profiles or academic credentials, in which case, none of them would have been in a position to fulfil them.

This critical issue will be discussed in Sect. 4, in relation to women’s participation in the Maritime Oil Transportation Sector in Ecuador. The next Sect. 3, attempts to conduct a secondary data analysis, to understand the general status of Ecuadorian women in education and labour market.

3 Ecuadorian Women in Education and Labour Market

Until recently, women in Ecuador were relegated to occupy a secondary role as homemakers. In the last decades, however, this situation has changed and the new generations of women are more actively participating in the academic and labor markets. The new Constitution,1 recently approved in Ecuador, ensures an equal participation of women in society. Important developments have been achieved in recent years, regarding women’s access to education in Ecuador and gender equality balancing. By 2010, 16 % of all graduated students from college attended an institution of higher education.

While progress regarding women’s access to higher education and gender equality treatment has been positive, discrimination persists. In accordance with “New Century, Old Disparities: income gaps by gender and ethnicity in Latin America” (Ñopo 2012), a research study published in 2012 by the Inter-American Development Bank (BID), Latin-American men and women of the same age and the same educational level, shows us that men’s salary is 17 % higher than women’s. Women hold only 33 % of the highest paid professions in the region, such as architecture, law or engineering. In these occupations, the wage gap between men and women is much more pronounced, reaching an average of 58 %. According to Ñopo (2012) in Ecuador, regardless of the nature of the activity or sector that women work for, women’s salaries are 27 % lower than men’s. This situation is caused, among other factors, by gender discrimination, which still persists, despite a very small education and training gap between men and women.

According to an analysis by Becker (2011), there are two main factors for this differentiation: discrimination against women and the perception that men have more experience and work longer hours. Becker argues that the traditional division of labour in the family disadvantages women in the labour market, as women devote substantially more time and effort to housework and have less time and effort available for performing market work. Moreover, the OECD (2002) found that women work fewer hours because in the present circumstances, the “responsibilities for child-rearing and other unpaid household work are still unequally shared among partners.” Such discrimination is also evident in the unemployment rate, which, according to statistical information provided by the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Ecuador (2013), measured women’s unemployment rate was 6.1 %, while men’s was 4.0 % in 2013. Many economists argue that a large number of rational and freely adopted decisions by women explain their secondary position in the labor market. In this sense, their desire to combine family life and professional development restrict their field in the labor market. Women in a way, feel certain “pressure” that society expects them to play in their roles as wives and mothers. This would result in:


Higher dropout rates and intermittency in the workplace than men;



Preference for occupations with part-time work or flexible schedules, rejecting those that entail greater responsibilities and requirements;



Less investment in women than men in terms of human capital development, as a result of providing less professional dedication to, as well as spending less time and money on, women’s education; and



A job characterized by a smaller geographical and occupational mobility than men, which also means fewer job opportunities.


Despite the increasing number of women enrolling in professions, related to numbers, they tend to focus on careers such as psychology, teaching or nursing, where the developments of quantitative skills are not required. This situation is mainly due to the fact that Latin-American women give priority to care for their children, rather than their profession. The statistics regarding women pursuing careers imply the situations where women are under pressure of dedication and commitment, allowing very little time to devote to home.

On average, more women than men graduate from university in Latin America. However, most specialize in programs that do not develop quantitative skills, those that are best paid in the labor market (Table 1).

Table 1
Percentage of female graduates in different careers as a percentage of the total

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