100 Tools For Gender Equality: No. 4 – Visible Role Models

I’ve made a global list of more than 100 inspirational maritime women. How many inspirational women can you count within your organization? How many of these are visible internally? And how many of them are encouraged to engage and inspire outside of their own team, unit or organization? Let’s talk a bit about the importance of visible role models!

Elisabeth Grieg

For women joining shipping some 20-30 years ago, there were few female role models. Fortunately, this has improved over the past decade, and will continue to do so; but the number of visible women across the industry is still far too low. I’d really like to see a cultural change in shipping where we proactively seek to promote female role models to a much bigger extent than we currently do.

When I speak with students, youth and younger industry colleagues it’s very clear that we still need so many more role models for those to gain inspiration from. 50+ white males still dominate the picture most people have of shipping. In other words; our industry still looks very homogeneous from the outside, and this reduces our attractiveness not only among females, but also among other groups who don’t identify themselves with our external stereotypic image.

Sanjam Gupta

You could definitely claim that this is up to the women themselves, and that not everyone feels comfortable with attention and visibility. But quite often people don’t consider themselves role models- and fail to realize their own potential impact in inspiring others. And for most, it’s easier to be vocal and visible if you see support and interest from your employer and/or colleagues.

Suha Obaid

So in this case, I think that the lack of visible female role models is so important for shipping, both for the current and next generations, that we should all – any individual, leader and company – nudge maritime women to take up more space and share their knowledge, experiences and drive.

Karin Orsel

Anyone can be a good role model I this context, you don’t need to be a CXO with massive amounts of power. It might just as well someone junior, who is super engaged in their field and able to translate nerdiness into interesting insights. Or someone who’s a female first in their role or field.

Birgitte Vartdal

Today I’d like to challenge you specifically; if you’re an industry female reading this post, think of how you can contribute either within or outside of your own organization. And if you’re a male industry colleague, I’m certain that you know someone in scope. Nudge them, and look into which efforts your company have in place.

Rebekka Glasser Herlofsson

Within every company, every professional field, every segment of our industry, age group and hub there should be visible, inspirational and inclusive leaders to inspire young female talents through their studies and first junior roles, and eventually onwards as they aspire for new challenges – cracking glass ceilings, walls and conquering the infamous glass cliffs.

Here are some of the women that I have gained inspiration from over the years, listed in random order. As you can see there are plenty to pick from:

  • Elisabeth Grieg, G2 Ocean
  • Irene Waage Basili, Shearwater
  • Rikke Lind, Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue
  • Nina Jensen, REV
  • Sanjam Sahi Gupta & Sumi Sahi, Sitara Shipping
  • Karin Orsel, MF Group
  • Birgithe Vartdal, Golden Ocean
  • Capt Radhika Menon
  • Marte Lamp Sandvik, Pareto
  • Christine Spiten, Blueye
  • Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, Tototheo Group
  • Kirsi Tikka, ABS
  • Trude Husebø, Skuld
  • Cathrine Fosse, Western Bulk
  • Victoria Kostic-Nola, Frontica
  • Sofia Fürstenberg, Nor-Shipping
  • Elin Barstad, StormGeo
  • Danae Bezantakou, Navigator Shipping Consultants
  • Diane Gilpin, Smart Green Shipping Alliance
  • Astrid Sonneveld, GoodShipping
  • Isabel Welten, GoodShipping
  • Cristina Santa Maria, DNV GL Singapore
  • Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, Ocean Tech
  • Eli Vassenden, Grieg Star
  • Julie Lithgow, Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
  • Sur Terpilowski, Maritime UK
  • Helle Hammer, CEFOR
  • Jenny Braat, Danish Maritime
  • Caroline F. Tiedemand, Eastern Bulk
  • K D Adamson, Futurenautic
  • Maria Belen Espineira, IT&L Legal Consultants
  • May Jensen, CSL Group
  • Sylvia Boer, Damen Group
  • Jeanne Grasso, BlankRome
  • Christine Rødsæther, SVW
  • Joan Nuijten Mueller, Multraship
  • Parker Harrison, Crowley
  • Caitlyn Hardy, Holland America Group
  • Katerina Stathopoulou, Investment & Finance
  • Rose Damen, Damen Group
  • Maria Andersson, DNV GL
  • Yngvil Asheim, BW
  • Namrata Joshi, NYK India
  • Katerina Stanzel, Intertanko
  • Maria Bruun Skipper, Danish Shipowners Association
  • Cathrine Marti, Ulstein Group
  • Naa Densua Aryeetey, Ghana Shippers’ Authority
  • Wenche Nistad, GIEK
  • Wiebke Schuett, Wallem Group Europe
  • Maria Mavroudi, Seascope Hellas
  • Dorothea Ioannou, American P&I Club
  • Sofia Coppola, Studio Legale Garbarino Vergani
  • Carolina Villa, Ship & Crew Services
  • Valeria Novella, Novella Tankers
  • Gunvor Ulstein, Ulstein Group
  • Karen Waltham, Spinnaker
  • Teresa Peacock, Spinnaker
  • Suzanne Paquin, NEAS
  • Bridget Hogan, The Nautical Institute
  • Jane McIver, BC Shipping News
  • Kjersti Kleven, Kleven Maritime
  • Anne Jorunn Møkster, Simon Møkster Shipping
  • Rebekka Glasser Herlofsson, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean
  • Carleen Lyden Walker, NAMEPA
  • Katia Christoforou, Marin Shipmangement
  • Christina Liviakis Gianopulos, American Ship Repair
  • Shehara Jeyawardana, McLarens Group
  • Alexandra Anagnostis-Irons, Total Marine Solutions
  • Pia Berglund, Swedish Shipowners Association
  • Janne Kvernland, Nordea Markets
  • Cathrine Fosse, Western Bulk
  • Kathleen Haines, Heidmar
  • Jasamin Fichte, Fichte Legal
  • Olufunmulayo Folorunso, African Shipowners Association
  • Cathy Metcalf, Chamber of Shipping of America
  • Ingrid Due-Gundersen, Höegh Autoliners
  • Cajsa Fransson, Swedish Maritime Authority
  • Hege Skryseth, Kongsberg Digital
  • Synnøve Seglem, Knutsen OAS
  • Anne Marthine Rustad, SINTEF
  • Gina Lee-Wan, Allen & Gledhill
  • Lyndsay Malen-Habib, Resolve Marine Group
  • Sabrina Chao, Wah Kwong Shipping
  • Suha Obaid, Folk Shipping
  • Lena Göthberg, Shipping Podcast
  • Kate Ware, Maritime & Coastguard Agency
  • Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore
  • Beng Tee Than, MPA Singapore
  • Kine Nordheim, Next Digital
  • Thina Saltvedt, Nordea
  • Angeliki Frangou, Navios
  • Catherine Hall, Shell
  • Benedicte Gude, Wilh. Wilhelmsen
  • Magdalene Chew, Asia Legal LLC
  • Xue Hua, Weichai Singapore
  • Sigrid Boman-Larsen, Fearnleys
  • Nancy Drakou, Clarksons
  • Pia Meling, Wilhelmsen Ships Service
  • Paulina Lepistö, Höegh Autoliners
  • Carol Howle, BP
  • Caitlin Hardy
  • Jillian Tobias
  • Kimberly Karlshoej
  • Nuvara Uslu Erdonmez
  • Sadan Kaptangolu
  • Yasmina Rauber
  • Maria Angelicoussi, Angelicoussis Group
  • Consuelo Rivero, Ership
  • Athina (Nounou) Martinou, Thenamaris
  • Ingvild Sæther, Teekay Offshore
  • Liv Hege Dyrnes, Thorvald Klaveness
  • Stine Mundal, DNV GL Hamburg
  • Mari Bygstad, Frontline
  • Siv Katrin Remøy, TTS
  • Marianne Aamodt, Clarksons Platou
  • Else Ingebrigtsen, North Edge
  • Siri Anne Mjåtvedt, Odfjell Tankers
  • Anna Larsson, Wallenius Wilhelmsen
  • Bridger Hogan, The Nautical Institute
  • Suzanne Paquin, NEAS
  • Jane McIver, BC Shipping News
  • Namrata Nadkarni, IHS Fairplay
  • Nicola Good, IHS Fairplay
  • Jane Porter
  • Sandra Speares
  • Helen Kelly, Informa
  • Tanya Blake, Safety at Sea
  • Lucy Budd, Seaways/Nautical Institute
  • Audrey Dolhen, CMA CGM
  • Inger Klein Thorhauge, Cunard
  • Nicole Langosch, AIDA
  • Serena Melani, Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Kate McCue, Celebrity Cruises
  • Nathaly Albán, Celebrity Cruises
  • Pinky Zungu, Durban Harbour
  • Cleopatra Doumbi-Henry, World Maritime University
  • Sigrid Teig
  • Kristin Eckhoff, EBC
  • Helen Riley, Lorentzen & Stemoco

And so so many more….

Now, let’s work together to make sure this list of visible role models grows exponentially during the coming years! And please share your input with me – which of your female role models are missing from the list..?!

Enjoy your weekend // Birgit

LeaderShip #WISTA2016

WISTA slightly amended the IMO slogan for 2016; Shipping {women} – indispensable to the {maritime} world. Sporting a slightly different delegate profile than your everyday maritime conference, WISTA AGM & International Conference 2016 gathered 300 female leaders from 33 countries for a 4-day conference onboard Holland America Lines’ M/V Koningdam for its’ maiden voyage in the U.S.

Among the prominent speakers & participants were INTERTANKO boss – Katarina Stanzel; IMO Director of Legal and External Affairs – RADM Fred Kenney; Shipowner & Board Member of ICS – Karin Orsel; President, Holland America Cruise Lines – Orlando Ashford; President, Total Marine Solutions & WISTA USA – Alexandra Anagnostis-Irons; Executive Vice President Fleet Operations, Holland America Group – Keith A. Taylor; Chief Financial Officer, Heidmar – Kathleen Haines; President and Chief Executive Officer, CSL Group – Rod Jones; Executive Director, Investments & Finance Ltd – Katerina Stathopoulou, and so many other people to learn from and get inspired by…

Grateful! #IamWISTA

We need to talk about female seafarers #DiversityShip

For years I’ve been utterly curious about something; why don’t we succeed in recruiting and retaining more female seafarers onboard the world’s ships? 
At several seminars and conferences I’ve attended both in Europe, U.S. and Asia, I’ve listened to numerous discussions on how hard this is. And heard companies sharing their experiences and explaining how they’ve been trying so hard to recruit female cadets. But “it didn’t work, unfortunately”. And so I asked this stupid question; well, how long did you try? Well, for quite a few it appears they’d tried a couple of times, but it just didn’t work. So they’ve given up. To me, the obvious question is; well – did you really WANT to succeed? People said the same about women in business earlier, you know….! Now look at what’s going on in our industry – women in all functions, levels and segments.

The perceived difficulties and barriers of raising the ratio of female seafarers just doesn’t make sense in my mind. If you do it as due to the “CSR” and political correctness perspective, I can understand it. You can’t just half-heartedly try if you don’t really believe in it. But if you do it based on an understanding of seeing an untapped potential of valuable resources, I’d claim that the potential for success should be so much better with the latter view. 

I mean, when we found oil of the coast of Norway, we didn’t exactly have the solutions straight away. There was invested heaps of money, time, trying and failing, before it worked out, right? And when various nations wanted to plant a flag on the Moon; same story.. If you really want something, you invest in it. You try and fail, learn from experts or build expertise. You don’t just give up after a few setbacks, do you? 

So to the companies out there who wanted to hire female seafarers but failed; how about talking to other companies that succeeded in recruiting girls, and learn from them. Talk to seasoned male and female seafarers to tap into their insights. And the industry could easily join forces and come up with a best practice model – which we’re normally really good at – so that each company won’t have to make the same mistakes (like recruiting only 1 female seafarer per vessel). Right?

And we also need to start talking about a huge load of unconscious bias in our industry. As when we start finding generic reasons outside our own influence that “explains” the lack of female seafarers. 

I have a few examples; “The thing is that it’s also a huge investment training cadets, and you know, then the girls get pregnant and go back on shore anyway”. “You know what it’s like – they won’t spend time away from their family, so it’s just not possible for us, you know…”. 

Hmmmm, I thought – I know many girls who stay long periods away from home, especially from the Asian and Eastern European countries. Think about all the girls who work hard as aupairs in Western countries, the Middle East or Singapore , or in factories in Taiwan. With a much lower pay, often no rights and they maybe don’t get to see their kids more than once or twice per year. So I still don’t get this, that shouldn’t be hindering them…

“Well, but anyway”, some claim – “there’s just so much hard work onboard a ship, such as cleaning the hull tanks, and women simply can’t manage that. So you know, this makes it impossible.” Or “It’s just too dangerous for girls”, “Some jobs are just not meant for women”.

And there I sat, thinking to myself; one of my best friends just spent a year in Mali with the UN forces. I know women who has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, crossed the Antarctic, sailed across the Atlantic sea in the roughest weather, and worked on huge oil rigs in the harsh Northern sea. Tough, strong, dedicated, and solution oriented. Also, I’m thinking; normally if we really want to achieve something, we only see opportunities and resolve the practical hinders. Why is this so difficult – when it’s basically about the key basic focus of us needing to recruit and retain the best people to our industry to stay competitive? 

I just don’t get it… Maybe you could enlighten me, and explain what you think. Which are the key obstacles and opportunities- what can we do to help the industry solving this bottleneck that keeps 50% of the best talents away from going to sea? Let’s crush some silos and glass walls!

Cheers from me, onboard the M/V Koningdam between Fort Lauderdale and the Bahamas – with 300 female industry executives gathered for the WISTA International AGM.

Seafarers brought us… our entire business!

Today we mark the day of the many hard working & skilled people that represent the most valuable and critical “asset” for the entire maritime industry. Without our colleagues at sea, and their unique competence, neither of us (nor the global trade) could utilize the most environmental friendly transportation alternatives. Twisting a well known quote to honour you today, my opinion is this; Without the seafarers, half the world would starve and the other half would freeze. Thank you for great efforts at sea, whether on a ship or rig. Without you, world trade as we know it would not exist. 

An extra warm thought goes to the crew members around the world who are either stuck on an abandoned ship in arrest, or held captive by pirates. I strongly urge the industry to ensure all possible efforts being made in order to get these back home safe and sound.

Birgit M. Liodden
Secretary General
YoungShip International

PS: Share the International Maritime Organization´s global campaign by adding your own word; “Seafarers brought us….”‪#‎IMO‬ ‪#‎DayOfTheSeafarer‬ ‪#‎25June‬

Press coverage from my presentation to IMO, June 2013

Quoted from the author, article published in BIMCO, Marine Insight, and Company of Master Mariners of Australia; “Inevitably the most disruptive presentation of the afternoon came from the youngest person, Birgit Liodden, founder of Norway’s YoungShip and campaigner for next generation involvement in an industry she fears is falling desperately behind in the race to secure the talent it needs.

I don’t think Liodden was being deliberately provocative when she called shipping “an industry of grey men”. IMO, after all, is one of the more balanced forums in terms of gender and diversity.

I think her point was that to improve safety and environmental performance as well as to improve the perception of the importance of shipping would need not just new role models but corporate structures capable of identifying, nurturing and delivering those role models too.

In that sense Liodden brought the two sides of this debate together. Shipping must pay much greater attention to the human factor but that does not just mean seafarers. It also means shore staff and company officers adopting a top to bottom safety and performance culture. The potential of such an approach might not be that we throw away hundreds of years of commercial practice but that we understand that achieving safety beyond compliance will require a degree of that transparency that will be new to shipping.

More than this, it means that, as the men and women in suits understand more about their counterparts in boiler-suits, there will be less temptation or tendency to scapegoat mariners for non-compliance and a better chance to recognise them for what they are: the strongest link in the chain.”

Neville Smith, reporter for Marine Insight

Challenging the establishment… My first visit to the IMO!




After a hectic (but fun!) Nor-Shipping week in Oslo, it was time to jump on a plane to London this Monday. IMO (International Maritime Organization) is the United Nation´s specialised agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping, and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. In other words, IMO is responsible for defining and implementing global regulations related to safety and environment for our industry. IMO is set up similar to WHO (Health), WTO (Trade) etc. Their head office lay beside the Thames, and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983.

It is now a year since the 100-year memorial for the Titanic, and the IMO for the first time organised a new type of global meeting, the first Ship Safety Symposium. I received an invitation to speak alongside industry experts such as Dr. Martin Stopford earlier this spring, and of course couldn´t resist this opportunity to bring our message across. Being asked to give a “thought-provoking” presentation, it´s needless to say that I definitely kept to the request.

Being the youngest speaker at the event, where 3 out of 30 were female, I assume that I stirred the audience quite a bit by introducing the first ever rap-video being played at this prominent venue. And I handed out a few harsh messages ref. to the NOX regulations and the Polar Code, asking what the audience would tell their kids & grandchildren in the future when not pushing the regulations our industry needs. Also, I opted the chance of pinpointing our competence challenge, and link to our industry´s lack of visibility. As Sustainable Shipping quoted me in their article; Shipping needs new role models! 

Challenging the audience on gray hair & suits, I am in for some beating of course. But they took it quite well, and the discussions afterwards were great!! Good involvement, and I even got some good support from Martin Stopford 🙂





Photo credits: IMO – International Maritime Organisation

Was supposed to get on the last plane back to Oslo, but due to some problems I got stuck and spent the first hours of my 31st birthday at Gatwick Airport. Cold, tired and just wanting to get home to my little one, I can assure you there´s no hint of glamour or champagne factor in this line of work 😉 But as shipping is a close global community in a small world, I was (as usual) lucky enough to meet someone familiar… Consuelo Rivero from WISTA Spain (Board member of WISTA Int.), was also spending the night there – caught in between flight transfer on her way back from the WISTA Mediterranean Conference in Greece. Great to chat away some nightly hours!

// B


Spennende invitasjon til IMO!




Wow!! I dag dumpet en uventet mail inn i innboksen..!

IMO (International Maritime Organisation) er FNs organisasjon for maritime områder, tilsvarende WHO/WTO. De skal arrangere et stort internasjonalt symposium for fremtidens sjøsikkerhet i London 10-11 mars. Og så kommer det utrolige – de vil ha meg til å delta som foredragsholder og i en paneldebatt. Tildelt tema er “Fremtidens utfordringer for maritim næring”. Jeg skal altså ikke snakke om verken det å være jente, eller om å være ung/øke rekrutteringen. De ber meg spesifikt om “a view to providing a thought-provoking presentation on the economic, environmental and consumer forces impacting maritime industry and how such forces will drive future ship design and operations”. Spennende oppgave!

Fy søren så langt YoungShip har kommet på kun få år. Dette er fantastisk spennende, og ikke minst veldig motiverende. Det at en så sentral og topptung organisasjon som IMO nå fokuserer mot neste generasjon er rett og slett en liten revolusjon. Yngrebølgen? Jeg ser det i stadig flere fora; stadig nye dører åpnes for de yngre i bransjen. Vi tar YoungShip-bølgen av glede, og jeg tror vi kan lære de “eldre” mye fremover, samt inspirere dem aldri så lite.. 😉

Og så er det moro at jeg tydeligvis har fått ny tittel siden sist.. Må bare presisere at jeg absolutt ikke er Dr./Ph.D. – tvert i mot..

Enda mer moro er at arrangementet skjer 10-11 juni, som altså faller sammen med 100-årsmarkeringen av norske jenters stemmerett. Pippi Power!!!

IMO Invitation

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: