100 Tools for Gender Equality: No.3 – Networks & WISTA

How do you facilitate talent or diversity groups within your company or local shipping community? Too small to do anything internally, or is it too time consuming in a period where resources are strained?

Well, have your company partnered up with WISTA? Are your female executives members? Have you realized how much could be gained on succeeding with retaining and developing female staff? Today, I’ll focus on networks as a tool for succeeding with diversity.

Yesterday, Lloyd’s Academy had a webinar on gender equality in shipping, where I joined as a speaker among a group of outspoken and highly engaged female leaders. Among the topics we discussed were the importance of arenas for sharing experiences, challenges and gain motivation, across all parts of the industry.

Close to 130 participants joined, from all parts of the world. The feedback and questions coming tells me that the exact same challenges and obstacles exist everywhere when it comes to gender diversity. This isn’t unique for shipping, it’s just a basic dysfunction in our global society as a whole, a systemic error overdue for bug fixing.

But we all have to start with ourselves and our own industry, and now is the time to really roll up our sleeves – creating progressive change for the future. This change is created by us as individuals, but working together. Mobilizing through international groups is extremely powerful, and having access to the right network when you experience a tough time professionally, is key for anyone, and for keeping good people in our industry.

Thus, I want to dedicate today’s post to WISTA. I owe the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association a lot of credit for how I’ve been given opportunities to speak out and join the industry debates. An amazing group of strong, passionate and highly competent female leaders from all corners of the shipping world, working for diversity and aiming to make the path easier and wider for the next generation.

If you don’t know WISTA, this network for female leaders across shipping, logistics & trading, covers 40 countries so far – providing a unique business platform as well as the key spokes organization and source of inspiration for female talents, seafarers and executives across the world. Over the past decade we have seen countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Morocco, UAE and Panama joining the WISTA community. I’ve heard of interest to set up NWAs in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and I hope that these will kick off and be followed by others in the near future.

I’ll share my own WISTA story as an example of how the current executives push and motivate young females to develop and become visible.

I joined as a regular member of WISTA Norway back in 2009, while working for Wilhelmsen and with YoungShip. In 2012 I was awarded the WISTA Leadership Award in Norway, and shortlisted for the global price.

Shortly after, I was invited to speak in Paris, at the annual WISTA International Conference, and attended it for the first time. I was allowed to challenge a very competent and global audience on my ideas for making shipping more attractive for the next generation. It was such an experience, and I had never expected so much interest and support towards me as a young person – an industry nobody.

What I experienced (and have continued to see over and over again in our industry..), is that “who” you are and which position you’re in at the time doesn’t necessarily matter. It’s the ideas, dedication and initiatives you bring to the table that people care about. Probably because shipping is so much more to it’s people than just a job, it’s a lifestyle…

In Paris I met the American WISTA executives for the first time, and I’ve kept close relations ever since. They generously invited me to speak at their annual CMA Luncheon in Connecticut the following spring, bringing the same message across the Atlantic Ocean on the need of industry role models to ensure attracting the best people into our industry, and thereby better tackle current and future industry challenges. And there I met Roberto Giorgi, former President of V.Ships, who has been a mentor for me ever since.

The following years I’ve joined various events organized by or with WISTA branches across the world. The Netherlands, USA, Cyprus, UAE, India, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Greece++ – and this summer I’m visiting Argentina and Brazil.

As with any network, I believe your core focus should be on what you can do for others, how you can contribute. This attitude is especially important for female professionals in a male dominated industry.

I wish to be part of an industry where male and female leaders alike foster inclusiveness and deliberately use their position to share, inspire and support the next generation and promote diversity. And thus, I always aim to do the same when people seek advice or ask me to help out. This has resulted in a decade of great discussions, new perspectives and competence, since this mindset and attitude is shared by so many other fellow WISTA members.

Through the global WISTA network, we exchange experiences and advise on everything from juggling hectic worklife, business introductions when traveling, sharing leadership challenges, ideas for cooperation, inspiration, hot industry topics, recommending speakers, mentors, travel tips, and how it can be possible to manage some kind of balance between family & work. Blowing some steam at times, celebrating each other’s progress at other times. No matter what kind of obstacles I’ve faced during these years, there’s always been a fellow WISTA to contact and discuss with.

When the going gets tough, you need those who already made similar experiences.

So here’s an amazing tool for any maritime organization & leader if you realize the urgent need for speeding up your diversity efforts – team up with your local WISTA NWA.

P.S. – This year’s WISTA International Conference will take place in Tromsø 24-26 October. Check it out and sign up here:

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