By Captain Lindsay M. Price
On July 12-13, 2019, the 2nd annual Women Offshore UNITE conference was held at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Over two days, we heard from powerful leaders in the maritime and offshore industries, encouraging diversity and inclusion both offshore and shoreside. More than 175 mariners gathered from all over the world for this empowering and inspiring event.
Women Offshore was created as an online organization and resource center in support of a diverse workforce on the water. Their mission is to shine a light on women in operations, provide resources, and share the latest efforts on gender diversity and inclusion in the offshore and maritime industries.
One of the eight panels was “Maritime Pilots Across the World”. In attendance on the panel were five female pilots: Captain Josephine Clark, Port Authority of New South Wales, Australia; Liz Marami, Kenya Port Authority, Kenya; Reshma Nilofer, Calcutta Hugli Pilots Guild, India; Captain Karen Nola, Sandy Hook Pilots, USA; and Captain Hanna Odengrund, Eastcoast Pilots, Swedish Maritime Administration, Sweden.
The panel’s moderator, Captain Bob Carr, San Francisco Bar Pilots, USA, said: “The panel ‘Maritime Pilots from Around the World’ had incredible speakers sharing some significant experiences. The efforts of both Reshma Nilofer, India and Liz Mirami, Kenya to gain access to piloting for women was truly impressive. The women pilots from Sweden and Australia presented work environments which are examples of where the industry as a whole should be moving towards and beyond. The pilots shared lessons and challenges which seemed to resonate with the audience. I started out feeling awkward, being the only male and knowing the audience was there to hear the panelists’ stories, not mine. The shared experiences of working as a pilot brought me right into each work situation the panelists were discussing. I am grateful Ally invited the SF Bar Pilots to moderate this panel. I cannot wait to get involved in more initiatives encouraging women to pursue leadership careers in maritime.”
The conference closed with a group dinner where founder Ally Cedeno presented four women with the Wave Maker Awards. These women have made great strides to support diversity and inclusion within the maritime and offshore industries. Captain Sherri Hickman has been with the Houston Pilot Association since 1994. As one of the first two female pilots in the Houston Pilot Association, Captain Hickman has been a leader supporting female seafarers and showing them how to always strive for their goals. Delfina Govia, partner at Veritas Total Solutions, has over 35 years experience in the energy business. Delfina leads activities in management consulting, general management, business transformation, project management, and financial analysis. Janelle Daniel, Vice President of Human Resources, Community Relations, & Sustainability at Transocean, manages an integrated approach to Transocean’s diversity and inclusions programs. Jaquelyn Burton, Kongsburg Maritime, sailed as chief mate for MEBA until 2018 and is now helping shape the future of autonomous vessels. All four of these women have paved the way for subsequent generations and continue to make waves in the maritime and offshore industries.
Captain Bob Carr added, “I was impressed by the energy and sincerity I experienced at the conference. I will be sharing this with my counterparts at the pilots and my old colleagues at Chevron Shipping. I agreed with the sentiment that men in leadership roles in their organizations should be a part of such a conference. Taking the veneer off ‘policies’ and ‘mission statements’ and creating a work environment required to make the career attractive to everyone is the true mission.
In addition to moderating the panel on ‘Maritime Pilots Across the World’, I had the opportunity to attend several other panels, as well as listen to the keynote speakers at the UNITE Women Offshore Conference. I have a greater understanding of the issues facing women mariners, the progress which has been made, and the efforts which remain to be done. My personal development as a mentor and advocate for women in the industry was exponentially raised.
I was particularly struck by a comment made by a panelist on day one. ‘One woman on a vessel is not enough.’ This was not a comment meant to convey a need for equality but a heartfelt statement of the need for camaraderie with other women onboard. The need to talk about shared experiences, the ability to discuss personal and professional issues with another woman, in person, and the need for their male counterparts to realize a gender diverse workforce is routine were the reasons given. This comment resonated with me as I look at the difficulties for a woman getting the support she needs to remain in the career long enough to get command time - command time which is necessary as a criterion for consideration by the California Board of Pilot Commissioners as a trainee candidate. I see it as likely the pool of candidates will remain small until the maritime industry reaches a representation in keeping with twenty-first century expectations, a stated goal of IMO.”