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Seafarers Awareness Week – Women in maritime

To celebrate Seafarers Awareness Week 2016 (20-26 June), we will be posting one blog each day guest-written by our HR Consulting department. The first blog comes from Sarah Hutley:

The ever increasing challenge to get more women back into work after children is a cause very close to my heart. As a mum of two who had previously built a fairly successful career through working long and hard, the prospect of returning to work was daunting. How would that fit with my other job – as a Mum?!

But fortunately I live in a modern, western world where technology allows home working and email checking from out and about. Possibly more importantly though, I live in a world where most people acknowledge that women have an important part of play in any successful workforce. The perceived inconveniences of employing a working mum on part time or even flexible hours can be far outweighed by the experience, commitment and drive they can bring. It’s also a great way for a business to tap into great resource at reduced (pro rata) cost.

The UK government are pushing to address the gender pay gap at the moment. And rightly so, in my opinion. Despite a shift in opinions and changes in work practices, the gap has remained fairly consistent for nearly 20 years. The gap for median earnings of full time employees has decreased to 9.4% (the lowest since the survey began) from 9.6% in 2014 – but surely we can do better? Also, the emphasis here is on full time staff and I suspect the picture would be quite different when part time staff are included. What I am paid is important of course, but the opportunity to spend some of the working week with my kids, and being able to help at school events and pick them up from school sometimes is just as important.

ONS report the pay gap increasing from age 40 upwards; with men on average being paid substantially higher. They suspect this is likely to be connected to the fact that women take some time out of the labour market. It’s not all doom and gloom though; us ladies get paid more in the 22-29 age group. So maybe it’s just karma?! What goes around comes around? But surely there is the risk that employers are failing to tap in to, and reward, some of their key employees or potential employees in the upper age brackets.
Industry wise, I’m quite new to maritime. Eleven months in and still learning. It wasn’t something that was on my radar at all (no pun intended), despite it being so huge. It’s not necessarily an industry that would immediate appeal to women either, and there is a great programme by Inspiring Futures to break the stereotypes associated with certain industries or jobs. If you can spare two minutes, watch this and be inspired:

When I joined HR Consulting at Spinnaker nearly a year ago, I was surprised to find little appetite for equal pay within the industry. In previous work environments this had been taken quite seriously, some ten years earlier in some cases. But something I did learn quickly was that maritime HR is a little behind the times. It’s no wonder really, when accommodating a global workforce with different ways of working and cultures. But that also highlights the reasons why a successful HR presence is ever more necessary – to help manage people issues in a coordinated and sensitive way.

Valuing employees and rewarding them equally really is quite fundamental, and something that we need to firmly embed across the industry. The forthcoming legislation will help address this to some extent in the UK, and I’ve developed a report package to help our Maritime HR Association members meet their legislative requirements. I’m hoping to whet the appetite of our global members too, promoting this as a best practice approach. After all, it will only be a matter of time until other countries follow suit.

There’s no quick solution of course; if we identify gaps we need to delve to the source of the problem and address it at the root (potentially all the way up the career ladder) – which could take years. But awareness is key; and implementing a plan to address the balance is half way there. I’m really keen that we make a start on this journey. There’s lots of work going on to encourage more women in to the industry and to promote fairness and equity during employment. I can’t wait to see how it all evolves and hope that one day the job satisfaction and work life balance that I achieve can be accessible to all.

If you want to get involved, are seeking advice or just want to share ideas or experiences on women in the industry and equal pay – please get in touch by visiting or emailing [email protected]

Sarah Hutley, Compensations & Benefits Consultant

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