World Maritime Day is a global observance created by the United Nations and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), intended to celebrate the maritime industry’s great impact on the world’s economy.
The day recognizes the importance of maritime security, the marine environment, and shipping safety, embodying a different theme every year.
This year’s theme, “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”, aims to highlight the contributions and advancements of women in the maritime sector while emphasising the importance of gender equality within the industry.
The progress women have made in the maritime world is an accomplishment in itself. Shipping has historically been a male-dominated industry, a tradition that runs long and deep. Only from the 19th century onwards did women officially begin taking a more active role at sea, primarily as nurses or to care for other women on passenger vessels.
One prominent woman in maritime history was Mary Ann Brown Patten, the wife of a captain. During a journey in 1856 her husband fell ill and, with his second in command unable to navigate, a heavily pregnant Mary took control and brought her husband’s ship safely to San Francisco after 50 days of sailing.
By the 20th century women had gained more power, with some even holding leading roles onboard vessels, such as captains and engineers. Eventually, due to increased access to education and a growing importance in the hospitality industry, women fought their way into the higher ranks of maritime professions.
Although the opportunities for women in the maritime sector are much more abundant than previously, only around two percent of seafarers worldwide are female. With so much room to grow, the IMO hopes to empower women with this year’s theme and facilitate access to high-level training alongside the men that dominate the industry.
Currently, the “IMO supports gender equality and the empowerment of women through gender specific fellowships; by facilitating access to high-level technical training for women in the maritime sector in developing countries; and creating the environment in which women are identified and selected for career development opportunities in maritime administrations, ports and maritime training institutes. Click here to learn more.”
Find out how Pole Star supports women in maritime.