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Why are There so Few Women in Seafarer Jobs?

Why are There so Few Women in Seafarer Jobs?

Eve Jones

It’s no secret that seafarer jobs and the maritime industry has a disproportionately high number of male employees to women at sea. A lot of this can probably be blamed on the so-called traditional mindset of this male dominated industry. But what are some of the other reasons that a female seaman is such a rare sight? Why aren't women choosing jobs at sea as a profession?

After all, not every budding female mariner is going to be deterred by tradition when it comes to chasing their dream career to pursue life on a container ship.

Why are there so few women in seafarer jobs?

Let's take a look at some of the reasons why potential female seafarers might be shying away from pursuing maritime jobs.

“It’s only for the boys…”

Yes, it’s true that employees in the shipping industry were, and still are, mostly male. Historically it is a male dominated industry and resistance to changing that mentality can run deep.

However, we’re no longer living in the 1800's and there are plenty of occupations that were once considered ‘men only’ that women can, and do, excel in: Medicine. Politics. Law. Education. The list goes on and while some of these may still be dominated by males, it's unthinkable in 2019 to imagine a medical profession without female doctors or schools with only male teachers.

yellow neon sign saying go up and never stop on black background

Is the average trainee female seaman discouraged by the thought of being harassed or bullied? Is the thought of jobs at sea and life on a container ship as a minority putting them off? Do they worry they will be judged for being ‘weaker’ or having an inferior skill set even though they hold equal qualifications?  It’s possible.

What female cadets considering a career at sea should know is that shipping companies are committed to protecting the rights of employees - of any gender.

“I didn’t know it was an option…”

Are schools still not making it clear that companies in the shipping industry are ready to welcome young women in maritime jobs? Are marine academies not making their courses appealing enough to a female seaman? It would seem so as female seafarers report a lack of awareness when it comes to choosing jobs at sea for women.

Even those young women that do choose ‘male dominated’ careers generally tend to go for jobs in STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Maybe they’ve thought of going into a career in maritime or maybe it never occurred to them in the first place, but what seems clear is that there is a lack of information from the outset.  

trees in forest with spray painted question marks on the trunks

“My family aren’t keen on the idea…”

Of course this is something which will vary a lot from seafarer to seafarer, from family to family and from culture to culture. A young girl expressing interest in seafarer jobs may suffer from a lack of support from her family. In many cultures women are still expected to stay at home and either not work, or to find employment in an area that is generally seen as more female orientated.

Certain societies may frown upon women in maritime spending months away at sea.

Unfortunately, even in the era of the stay-at-home-dad and parents sharing responsibilities, bearing and raising children still has a massive impact on the way women in the workplace are perceived. Of course, this applies to many jobs, not just to women in the maritime industry.

Even in this day and age, many women are still being forced to choose between a career and a family - often giving in to social pressure to choose family.

And now for the good news…

The silver lining to this cloud is that there are an increasing number of organizations dedicated to supporting women in seafarer jobs. Female seafarers already working in jobs at sea and living life on a container ship, as well as anyone just thinking about choosing shipping as a profession, should check them out.

sunshine in gloomy sepia color sky breaking out from behind a cloud

The fact is, the maritime industry offers some fantastic employment opportunities for both men and women at sea and we urge anyone considering a maritime career to follow their dreams and at least explore their potential.

Make your next career move and fin seafarer jobs with Martide

If you’re a seafarer looking for your first - or next - contract, Martide would love to help you - whatever your gender!

Register for a Martide account now and then take a look at our vacant maritime jobs and get your career in the shipping industry moving in the right direction.

You can even apply for jobs at sea through Martide when you’re on the go thanks to our mobile app. Android users can download the app through Google Play and seafarers with iPhones can get it from the Apple App Store.