In an exclusive interview with SAFETY4SEA, Ms. Katerina Stathopoulou, Member of the WISTA International Executive Committee, advises how to ensure a long term career in shipping and talks about WISTA’s efforts to achieve gender balance in shipping, which by nature is a male –dominated industry. Ms Stathopoulou refers to WISTA’s powerful collaborations with big Associations, confirming that the organisation continues action towards women’s empowerment in the maritime community. Although, shipping industry has made significant steps, this task continues to be challenging, Ms. Stathopoulou notes and shares her personal story. Patience, determination and hard work are the characteristics one should have along with a sound educational background to succeed in shipping.
SAFETY4SEA: WISTA RECEIVED THE Safety4Sea Sustainability Award for highlighting the important role that women play in the industry and encourage their participation and engagement. What does this milestone mean to your organization?
Katerina Stathopoulou: The SAFETY4SEA Sustainability Award is an important milestone for WISTA. It is a testimonial that Shipping Women are indispensable to the maritime world, playing an essential role to the industry’s sustainability. It acknowledges all our efforts internationally to empower and engage the underutilised female talent within the maritime industry and encourages us to continue.
S4S: What is your experience of being a woman in a male-dominated industry?
K.S.: My personal experience has been a positive one. As a daughter of a Master Mariner and having been raised on bulkers and tankers up until school age, shipping for me is home. I was very much aware of the difficulties I would be facing when I started my career in the mid-80’s. It has taken a lot of commitment and hard work on my part, but I would be ungrateful if I did not recognise the support, knowledge and mentorship I received and continue to receive from the male workforce of the industry.
S4S: Do you think that the shipping industry has embraced women successfully? What would you say to young women considering a career in maritime?
K.S.: Yes, I believe that the shipping industry has made significant steps towards successfully embracing women. However, breaking into this male dominated industry continues to be challenging.
Women today are accepted as being capable of performing in this demanding and very exciting industry. However, they still have to work harder to prove their decision making capabilities, compared to their male counterparts, in order to achieve advancement. We still do not have many women on Boards, not because they do not want to or are lacking in skills, but simply because they are not considered for such positions.
The challenges that a Woman Professional has are not only in terms of competition with her male counterparts, but also in terms of other responsibilities she has to fulfil that are gender related. Women will always have many roles – Wife, Mother and Professional are all full time jobs. I believe this is where the challenges begin. Please let me not be misunderstood, I am not knocking down the men, here. However, even though societies have come a long way in terms of equality between men and women in their capabilities, differences still exist in their role expectations.
To the young women considering a career in maritime, I would advise them to first and foremost believe in themselves and reach for the sky! Shipping is an exciting, vibrant industry and one should be willing to put in long hours. Patience, determination and hard work are the characteristics one should have along with a sound educational background.
S4S: How WISTA has succeeded in supporting women so far? Do you have any future plans that you would like to share?
K.S.: WISTA is an international networking association, and networking plays a big role in professional achievements. Traditionally, it has been easier for men to network. The professional environments encouraged men more than women in this respect. Women used to be more introvert when it came to their networking skills. Professional associations such as WISTA have played a big role in providing women the opportunity to network with other Professionals (male and female) thus improving their networking skills, enhancing their industry knowledge and increasing their career achievements.
WISTA has made partnerships and collaborates in projects with IMO, World Maritime University, Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, NAMEPA, ISWAN and Crew Connect to name a few. Our most recent project is an annual scholarship program with the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, supporting the shipping education of 10 WISTA ladies from all over the world. Over the recent years, we are also focusing on internationally empowering and supporting female seafarers. We have a new project under discussion with IMO, but I am not at liberty to disclose any details now. You will hear of it in 2018.
S4S: What is your key message to the women in the industry? What is your advice for a long term career in the shipping?
K.S.: Be passionate about your career! Think big and do not accept easy answers like “this cannot be done”. Instead, insist on discovering “how it can be done”– in today’s world, there is always a way!! For me, the key to a long term career in shipping is Passion, Stamina, Hard Work and Continuous Learning.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.