While the gender ratio is changing gradually in the traditionally male-dominated shipping and logistics sectors, there is a long way to go.

Analysis of recent surveys in a PwC report, ‘Transportation and Logistics 2030’, revealed that women make up 20% to 30% of the industry’s workforce globally. Currently, less than 10% of senior management positions in the logistics and transportation sector are held by women, but PwC sees this figure increasing along with the forecast that 40% – an 8% increase from 2003 – of all women will have completed secondary education by 2030.

For seafaring and the transportation sectors there are ongoing challenges. In the long distance trucking industry there are concerns about the physical safety of women taking mandatory rest breaks in remote areas. Sexism is also a big concern, particularly at sea where men have traditionally dominated the sector, both as officers and ratings.

Women make up only an estimated 2% of the world’s maritime workforce, and work mainly in the cruise and ferries sector, based on a report by the International Transportation Worker’s Federation (ITF). According to the union, women have the worst paid and least protected jobs at sea. They tend to be younger, and fewer are officers than their male counterparts.

Women can face discrimination even getting into seafaring work. In some countries, for example, maritime education and training institutions are not allowed to recruit women to nautical courses. Women tend to enrol on navigation rather than engineering courses. Even trained, they may have to face prejudice from ship owners who won’t employ women.

Once employed, women seafarers may face lower pay even though they are doing work equivalent to that of male colleagues; and be denied the facilities or equipment available to male workers, which is a form of discrimination, according to a report on the ITF website.

The landscape is changing as the associations such as Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) and Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) are providing forums for women to develop their professional skills, networking opportunities, and business opportunities.