Why the maritime industry needs to improve diversity in the workplace

Diversity, equity, and inclusionTalent

Maritime employers and employees would benefit from an inclusive and diverse working environment. However, preliminary survey findings hint that there is still plenty of room for improvements.

There are clear and defined benefits to be derived from inclusive and diverse working environments. Statistics show that there is a direct correlation between diversity and performance. Candidates are most attracted to diverse organisations, particularly the talent of the future such as millennials and Generation Z.

- Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation. (McKinsey Diversity Report 2018)

- Companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. (McKinsey Diversity Report 2018)

- Companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic/cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability. (McKinsey Diversity Report 2018)

- Diversity without inclusion is not enough. Organisations with inclusive cultures are:

  • 2x as likely to meet or exceed financial targets

  • 3x as likely to be high performing

  • 6x more likely to be innovative and agile

  • 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes

(Deloitte Review 2018)

- 74% of millennials believe their organisation is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion. If businesses are looking to hire and sustain a millennial workforce, diversity must be a key part of the company culture. (2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey)

Monitoring diversity enables informed decision making

Driving sustainable change requires effective monitoring of a broad range of criteria that has not, until the Diversity Study Group (DSG) was established, existed within the shipping and maritime industry. True diversity extends beyond gender, nationality and ethnicity and gaining the benefits from diversity requires the behaviours, attitudes, systems, and processes that build an inclusive company culture to be considered.

Other sectors are taking a collaborative approach to driving change, for example the Women in Finance Charter in the UK that is backed by HM Treasury. The Annual Reviews outline what actions banks are taking to increase gender representation so that the sector is sharing ideas about what is working. The Charter approach has been replicated in other areas now such as aviation and tech and the legal sector has been active for some time in monitoring diversity data (it is mandatory for law firms in many regions) and the Law Society produces a variety of reports showing the make-up of the legal profession. This provides a great way for firms to benchmark their progress.

What we can learn from these examples is the power of a sector working collaboratively to address challenges and the importance of data to drive informed decision making.

The DSG is leading the Diversity in Shipping Study across the shipping and maritime sector in order to understand where we are now and to support the drive in our industry to embrace the values of diversity and benefit from effective inclusion practices. This study, through census and opinion questions, is proactively investigating:

  • Diversity statistics by sector, business area, job type and location

  • Pay gap analysis

  • Benefits packages available

  • Career progression

  • Training and development

  • Attitudes and perceptions of diversity and inclusion policies and practices in the workplace

Through this work, the DSG is able to identify where the maritime industry is now, work collaboratively with its’ members to identify where they want to get to and share best practice methods in order to support the shipping industry’s transition in this critical area. The potential benefits of this project include:

  • Greater employee engagement and retention leading to improved performance and satisfaction

  • Enhanced employee attraction

  • Supporting HR with diversity and inclusion policies by assisting in identifying areas where diversity and inclusion are working as well as areas for improvement

  • Benchmarking against others in the industry

  • Networking with peers to address the challenges being faced and best practices being applied

What the preliminary results from the DSGs Diversity in Shipping survey tell us

Preliminary results from the DSGs Diversity in Shipping survey show a stark disparity in gender balance. Strikingly, 95% of respondents working in senior management roles are male. This lack of female representation in senior management is very high, even by comparison with other economic sectors.

Quartz surveyed 1,500 of the largest public companies from 27 countries worldwide - including the 500 largest listed companies in Europe, and Asia, and the United States. Women make up, on average, 20% of company boards, 14% of C-suite positions, and 23% of management roles.

The DSG results also show a lack of ethnic diversity at C-suite, Director and head of department level, with respondents identifying as white comprising by far the largest proportion of these roles.

Gender imbalance is less pronounced in other roles and levels of seniority. 34% of respondents in commercial roles are female and 51% of female respondents described themselves as working in ‘mid-level roles’. It is also notable that 42% of female respondents are aged 25-34. This could indicate a growing pool of female talent for more senior roles, provided there is a pathway to further progression. On this point, it is encouraging to see something approaching parity among respondents who received a promotion in the past 12 months (47% female and 50% male).

When it comes to salaries and bonuses, 61% of respondents reported a salary increase in the past 12 months. Of this 61%, 49% are male and 46% are female. This gap widens when looking at the size of the increase; of those reporting a pay rise of 2-4%, 56% are male and 41% are female. There is also a significant gender disparity in the award of bonuses, both in terms of those who received a bonus and the amount they received.

There are significant differences between male and female responses when describing their working environment. Twice as many women as men feel unable to raise discrimination concerns, feel less valued for their contribution and feel they lack a supporting peer group at work. This goes to the heart of how diversity and inclusion affects workplace culture and the progress still to be made.

Full results from the Diversity in Shipping survey are available to DSG members - participating companies span a range of industry sectors, organizational types and locations, but with strong representation from the ship owning and trading sectors. If you work in the shipping industry you can participate in the survey here.

The 11th annual Maritime Employee Report conducted in 2020 by the DSG, Halcyon Recruitment and Coracle Online highlighted some key points in relation to diversity but also what employees are seeking from their working environments. When looking at diversity, over half of the c.1300 participants (52%) were aware of discrimination in the industry. The most commonly cited areas of concern over discrimination were nationality (60%), followed by age (41%), gender (37%) and ethnicity (32%). With respect to inclusion, only 60% of employees cited their company culture as being one where they feel supported in the workplace and an overwhelming 90% would like their employer to do more to create a workplace where everyone feels valued and able to contribute.

The maritime industry can learn from other sectors

The positive news for the shipping and maritime industry is that we can learn from the many other sectors who are more advanced in the diversity and inclusion arena, helping organizations to move forward with tried and tested best practice programmes and methodologies.

Educating companies and individuals within the maritime and shipping industry, at all levels, about the benefits inclusion and diversity could bring to their specific organisation and their role within it is critical. Achieving diversity is possible irrespective of a company’s size or budget but, to be really effective, it requires buy-in and involvement at every level.

Having in place a robust diversity and inclusion policy that is supported by effective monitoring, systems and processes to build an inclusive company culture is key. Hiring and retention strategies, remuneration equality, learning and development planning and reviewing working arrangements are all critical components of providing the right environment for diversity and inclusion to be achieved, to be successful and to be sustainable.