Charting the path for Maritime Diversity

08 Mar 2022 Institute News

Charting the path for Maritime Diversity

Captain Jeanine Drummond FNI

Jillian Carson-Jackson FNI

When I commenced in the maritime industry as a Deck Officer trainee, I quickly realised two things: I loved the adventure of working life at sea. Secondly, if I wanted to survive, I needed to fit into a 'man's world'. I didn't just survive; I thrived. I loved my seagoing career, with so much variety in the roles and tasks and a different view every day. I also learned to swear like a sailor, tolerate some pretty poor behaviours, slurs and comments, and turn a blind eye to too many jokes of poor taste. I committed to working very hard to do my job well to create a good impression of women working at sea. Having worked in maritime now for nearly 30 years, I wonder how much more we need to do to ensure all people have an opportunity to embark on a maritime career where they can be themselves at work, feel included and speak up on any issue any time - it may just save a life, or a grounding/collision." - Captain Jeanine Drummond. It is wonderful to see an increasing number of women represented in many maritime roles both afloat and ashore. At the same time, it is disappointing to see that, in some workplaces, women continue to experience behaviours that are simply not acceptable, ever. A young, junior woman working with all men is unlikely to call out these incidents or use the opportunity to educate others on appropriate boundaries when in such a vulnerable position. These situations are unlikely to rectify themselves without greater awareness and a genuine commitment to equal opportunities. Given the slow progress to date, much more needs to be done to deliver an inclusive workplace culture that instils psychological safety, with a 'speak-up' culture to support all seafarers, reduce incidents and enhance workplace safety. When we consider diversity more broadly across our industry, we have worked with different cultures, ethnicities, religions at sea and in our ports since the beginning of time. We have these experiences, but it is time to ask ourselves some key questions:

  • Have we worked together in an equal, and equitable, manner?
  • How do we support a workplace culture of psychological safety?
  • Do we instil, encourage and support an environment where all feel safe to 'speak up', no matter their rank, title, nationality, religion, age, neurodiversity, physical disability, gender, sexuality, or identity?
  • Have we taught the skills for responding to and supporting those who may be experiencing isolation as a minority? The diverse perspective, question or discussion could potentially save a life, prevent an incident or injury, or provide an opportunity

The diverse perspective, question or discussion could potentially save a life, prevent an incident or injury, or provide an opportunity to achieve greater efficiency, optimisation and job satisfaction.

Charting success

There are practical steps that we can take to promote organisational change for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). These include:

1. Policies - The maritime sector is well versed in standards and policies. Do we have enough emphasis on DEI and Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) policies? Have we reviewed policies to ensure they support DEI?

2. Education - Where these policies exist, do they translate to specific maritime workplace-targeted training that helps people learn about themselves and how to treat others who may look different, practise a different religion, be of a different culture, gender? Have we been taught to look at our behaviours, attitudes, responses, bias, and thought patterns and question why we see the world, the people around us the way we do?

3. Reporting - Is training reinforced with ongoing accountability, reporting, investigation and shared learnings?

4. Analysis and accountability - Based on the reporting, is the DEI/ EEO being approached in the same manner as all other core policies - with metrics, key performance indicators and regular monitoring with accountability? For true diversity, equity and inclusion to exist, we need to look internally. Do we behave differently among our mates and work colleagues than with family and friends? If we do, it is time to ask ourselves why. Psychologist Jean Piaget, known for his work in cognitive development, said: 'What we know changes what we see, what we see changes what we know'. We are continuing to evolve as individuals, as an industry, as a society. As we grow older, have we begun to learn terms our children readily use, such as cisgender, gender fluid, gender-neutral, pansexual. We may see, but not recognise, daily reoccurring micro-aggressions, verbal and behavioural slights. We may not realise that these leave marginalised individuals feeling left out, isolated, not included, even depressed. This has an impact on mental and physical health and also affects operational safety in that workplace.

Broadening our horizons

There have been far too many incidents with life-threatening consequences, where the lack of a speak-up culture contributed to a significant decline in a person's mental well-being, with the associated increased risk of operational safety or a pollution incident occurring. This lack of speak up culture on board is further evidenced through research published this month by Osterman and Bostrom which includes the findings that 'workplace bullying and harassment is a substantial problem in the maritime industry' 'women and minority groups are especially exposed to bullying and harassment in this kind of working environment' and 'there is a need to address underlying causes of workplace bullying and harassment and ensure decent employment and working conditions at sea'. It is these underlying causes that prevent psychological safe workplaces and increase risk of physical and mental health issues and that of operational incidents. As we learn to see our industry through a broader lens, it is evident that we need to guide, assist and support our workplaces, organisations, regulators, professional associations and institutions to embrace the full spectrum of diversity. This includes promoting and demonstrating what it means to provide equitable opportunities and resources so that everyone is included. It means providing, and embracing, a workplace culture that fosters psychological safety and a speak-up culture. It is visible leadership, normalising everyone's participation and recognising this role in providing a safe and healthy workplace. As the leading global body for maritime professionals, The Nautical Institute is able to build on its Diversity and Inclusion pledge and maintain a position of leadership and in uence in all discussions and decisions affecting maritime professionals and their workplaces, especially in the area of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Work in support of our Diversity and Inclusion pledge has included a review of all NI Governance documentation to be effectively inclusive in style; the wider consideration of diversity in Committee membership and a more inclusive approach to attracting members and speakers at major events. These initiatives and outcomes will deliver a more sustainable and innovative maritime future; we must use this as an opportunity to learn to embrace change, growth and development with the onset of new technology, digitisation and generational change where people think and act differently. As the NI looks to the future and builds on the work already done, we are excited to form a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion working group (see Call for Interest, right). The working group will represent the views of the wide-ranging international membership and provide a voice and platform for those who identify as marginalised or a minority in their workplace. Participation will involve an estimated three to five hours a month via online meetings and ad hoc tasks. It is anticipated that members will be rotated over a two to three year period.

Continuing the NI's focus on training, the working group will significantly contribute to further education, discussion and advice on DEI, including internal NI policy, publications and processes. Building on the existing vision of diversity and inclusion, the DEI Working Group will assist NI staff, executives, committees and council to form views aligned with the NI's overarching aims and objectives that continue to influence positive outcomes for all people working in our global maritime industry.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) Working Group

Call for Interest
Members, staff, and council committed to this work of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in maritime and wishing to join this newly formed working group are encouraged to submit an Expression of Interest in 300 words or less by 15 April 2022 to

The selection panel will select approximately ten (10) DEI working group members using the following criteria:

  • a demonstrated commitment to advancing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion;
  • lived experience from marginalised or equity-seeking groups within the maritime industry;
  • relevant work and/or volunteer experience;
  • available time and motivation; and
  • an understanding of, and support for, the role and work of The Nautical Institute.

Successful applicants will be notified in May.


Diversity and Inclusion Pledge

The Nautical Institute, as the global body for maritime professionals, pledges its commitment to encourage, support and celebrate a diverse and inclusive maritime industry, including gender, race, ethnicity and age. Furthermore, The Nautical Institute pledges to embrace equal opportunities and visibility in all activities of the Institute.