Diversity, equity, and inclusion are gaining momentum in the maritime industry

Diversity, equity, and inclusionTalent

Studies have shown that diverse and inclusive companies perform better. Industries, including the maritime industry, are ramping up efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workforce and reap the rewards – both for the employees and the companies themselves. However, there is a need, and opportunities, to do more.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have been steadily gaining momentum within the shipping and maritime industry over recent years but coming into 2022, the pace of change is increasing significantly.

The main drivers behind this are:

  • The financial sector is increasingly relying on ESG reporting to assess performance with DEI being a growing focal point

  • Employees are making DEI part of their decision-making criteria when considering new employers

  • The requirement to address supplier diversity in procurement processes

  • Covid-19 has highlighted the need to build a resilient and relevant workforce

  • Attracting and retaining talent at all levels, from all industries

As a result, business leaders are taking responsibility to prioritise DEI and drive the necessary transformation within their organisations, tying in diversity to business strategy across the short, medium, and long term.

With rapid developments with respect to decarbonisation, technological advances, and the widely reported global war on talent, executive management and the shipping industry need to be giving DEI the focus that other industries have been doing for several years.

The business case and imperative

Data shows without doubt that DEI makes business sense, as well as being our ethical responsibility. There are countless studies available, to cite a few of these:

  • McKinsey’s 2020 report, "Diversity Wins, How Inclusion Matters" found that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians.

  • Harvard Business Review’s 2013 article “How Diversity Can Drive Innovation” found that diverse companies are 70% likelier to capture a new market. They’re also 45% more likely to report increased market share year-over-year.

  • Teams that are inclusive make better decisions up to 87% of the time, according to a study conducted by Forbes (“The Benefits of Creating a Diverse Workforce,” 2019)

How the pace is picking up across industries

Taking a high-level look at the DEI market in its own right provides an insight into some of the early stage DEI investment taking place. LinkedIn analysis in the five years up to mid-2020 showed a 71% increase worldwide in all DEI roles. The number of people globally with the Head of Diversity title more than doubled (107% growth), the number with the Director of Diversity title grew 75% and Chief Diversity Officer 68%.

As an industry with employees across the globe, we should be in a position to make good progress on our individual and collaborative journeys. The increase in DEI-focused activity we are seeing with the Diversity Study Group (DSG) is a positive indicator that this is underway – DEI strategy formulation, corporate training and the use of data to inform decision making are all up significantly on previous years.

Global findings from the most recent Diversity Study Group Survey

Our Annual Review 2021 built on our qualitative and quantitative data set of 2020 and surveyed over 3000 individuals worldwide working within the shore-based maritime sector (with ship owning/management and trading firms primarily) in order to work towards establishing a robust baseline from which we can measure progress and identify areas for further review and consideration.

Some of our key findings included:

  • There is a significant lack of ethnic and female representation at senior levels of the sector – an issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

  • 27% of C-suite positions are held by women. This drops to 14% at the Heads of Department level. There is a far higher proportion of women at the Junior/Trainee level where the split is 63% women compared to 35% men.

  • 100% of those who participated at the C-suite level identified as White. The homogeneity at the senior level breaks down slightly at the Heads of Department level where 22% of respondents identify as Asian and 5% as Hispanic / Latino.

  • 58% of respondents said that their employer has a D&I policy compared to 14% who did not. 28% did not know if their employer had a policy – a lost opportunity to demonstrate commitment to DEI for those firms who have a policy but are not communicating the fact.

  • Responses show that there is an appetite for more training and awareness on DEI issues. Organisations have an opportunity to accelerate their programmes by involving all their workforce in fostering inclusive environments.

  • 67% of respondents reported that they could raise discrimination concerns internally. This drops even further to 63% for women, 57% for those from Asian backgrounds and 52% for those from Hispanic/ Latino backgrounds.

  • The most frequently mentioned areas in the comments section were the lack of women at senior levels of the industry, a need for more Learning & Development opportunities for people across the organisation, and the consistent application of policies and processes to provide equal opportunities for all.

We know from DSG members that there is a growing appetite for more DEI-related data to drive data-driven decisions, but challenges remain as shown by the limitations of some of the data collected. Other sectors are investing time and resources to expand and refine the data they capture, and we believe it is time for shipping and maritime to follow suit.

Success with respect to DEI requires executive leadership to drive it throughout organisations with a robust strategy, clear measurable objectives, and defined accountability. It requires the allocation of resources and investment in our people beyond salaries and bonuses. The DEI journey is not straightforward, nor is it quick, and without C-suite taking the lead, progress is likely to be slow and the opportunities that DEI brings missed.

It is evident that both existing employees and new recruits care about DEI issues and companies can gain a competitive advantage by showing that they are inclusive employers. The industry is competing against other industries for the same people, so it is essential that the sector remains relevant to potential new entrants by positioning itself as providing meaningful, inclusive, and fulfilling career destinations.