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Survey Finds "Unacceptable" Discrimination Against Female Seafarers

Female crewmembers on the bridge of a ship
File image courtesy IMO

Published Oct 24, 2022 7:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

WISTA International has released the results of a large-scale online survey on the prevalence of gender-based discrimination and harassment at sea, and the results are sobering.

Out of the 1,128 female seafarers who responded, 60 percent reported encountering gender-based discrimination aboard their vessels, and 66 percent reported witnessing harassment. This is higher than oft-cited statistics for women in shoreside roles; past studies indicate that the self-reported rate for workplace gender discrimination in the United States runs at about 40 percent. 

25 percent of the survey respondents said that they had personally encountered onboard harassment, like overly familiar remarks or an invitation to a crewmember's cabin. Another 25 percent reported indecent remarks, body shaming and uncomfortable persuasion. About 90 percent of these interactions were with male seafarers.

Despite near-universal company policies banning harassment on board (97 percent), only a small minority of the respondents said that they had reported incidents to their companies, either through a hotline or through their direct superior. 

The survey drew the overwhelming majority of its data (90 percent) from women who serve aboard cruise ships, reflecting the high level of concentration of female seafarers within the cruise sector. 

"The recent report revealed unacceptable figures with women facing gender discrimination, harassment and bullying on the sea. The shipping sector is at risk due to a lack of new talent," said Sanjam Sahi Gupta, the founder of WISTA India and the co-chair of WISTA International's Diversity Committee. “There is an urgent need to create a more diverse, inclusive and equitable maritime community, with women seafarers deserving a respectful and safe working environment."