Thursday 24 September 2020

Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou

Diversity ‘key to unlocking maritime sustainability’

DUBAI, November 28, 2019

A changing world, with changing technology, demands a changing maritime workforce, said Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, CEO of Tototheo Maritime, a leading global supplier of advanced maritime technology and services, and president of Wista.

Companies overlooking key groups of talent – based on gender, culture or ethnicity – will fail to evolve and adapt to the new reality, she added.

“In a modern, well-functioning society diversity is an accepted norm,” she said. “People of different genders, ages, beliefs and cultures mix, giving broad perspectives and enriching understanding. Everybody benefits from that. In shipping, although the numbers are very old, we know that only around 2% of seafarers are women, with no clear idea of how gender plays out in land-based and support roles and sectors. So, it is definitely not the ‘norm’ to be a female in shipping in 2019.

“And we at Wista, alongside a growing number of supporters and industry players, want to normalize that. In short, the future of our industry depends on it.”

“Diversity has to be pushed higher up the agenda,” Theodosiou sad. “And, thankfully, that is beginning to happen.”

This year’s IMO World Maritime Day, centred on the theme of ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’, shows that the issue is moving out of the shadows, while, privately, Wista is engaging in increasingly frequent conversations with individual businesses.

“I think a growing number of companies realise the benefits of initiating their own corporate diversity programmes. Some major names are already emerging as role models in this respect – such as Maersk and Immarsat - but more often than not they simply don’t know where to start,” she explained.

“That’s when I’d encourage them to get in touch with the Wista team to see how to address the issue. We can then work side-by-side to try and tailor solutions that deliver real benefits.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping the demand for seafarers is currently around 1.55million individuals, with demand for officers up by 24%. That translates to a current shortfall of approximately 16,500 officers. Given the growth projections for the industry over the next ten years that gap will undoubtedly loom larger – so new talent is sorely needed.

“We need to grow the human capacity within the industry,” said Theodosiou. “And that means encouraging and enabling more women to go to maritime academies, more employers to accept them as candidates, and more individuals (and the parents of young women) to see this as a valid, promising career option.

“The more used society gets to seeing women at sea the more likely they will be to choose that path – it becomes the norm.”

“Digitalisation has transformed the industry and opened up a wealth of new opportunity,” she explained. “Suddenly we have new positions, new functions and new openings for people that may not have traditional maritime education or experience. If shipping wants to prosper it has to cast its net wide to get the best people, regardless of gender, age or ethnicity. That will accelerate positive labour force developments.”

“It’s not only the number of people that attend, but also the ‘character’ of the event week that makes it such a good fit,” she added. “Nor-Shipping has a focus on innovation, future strategies and collaboration – it is a manifestation of the open-minded approach that we need in shipping. So, we know the delegates listen, we know they want to learn and, with the level of executives in attendance, we know they have the power to act. We feel it was a great success in 2019 and are looking forward to seeing what’s in store in 2021.” – TradeArabia News Service


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