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STEERING THE SHIPPING INDUSTRY TO GENDER EQUITY: IMPACT OF DEI IN ESG

I t has been 50 years since Women’s Equality Day was first celebrated on August 26, 1973. Today, it serves not only as a reminder of the challenges women suffered to secure voting rights but also as a chance to take stock of the work yet to be done on our path to attaining gender parity. For the shipping industry in India, with a gender ratio of just 15% women personnel, this reminder is important. The shipping industry, at its core, is primarily a people-driven industry. So, creating a diverse and inclusive ecosystem here is a clear necessity. This is why a focus on the principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is imperative.

Makes Complete Business Sense

Promoting gender equity isn’t just a noble endeavor; it’s smart business. The benefit diversity brings to business was highlighted in a McKinsey report which says that companies with more than 30 percent women executives were more likely to outperform companies with a lesser number. Adopting DEI practices creates happier, more diverse work environments fostering creativity and driving innovation. This leads to better decision-making and problem solving. It is also directly in line with the socially responsible values emphasized by ESG principles.

State of the Industry

We have seen a steady increase in the representation of women across levels in the supply chain and logistics sector. In 2010, women formed only 8% of the global logistics workforce. Now, the global push towards gender equity has inspired even the most traditional industries to change. Today, women form an average of 41% of the global supply chain leadership . In the shipping industry, while women make up 34% of the shore-based workforce in ship owning companies, they make up only about 2% of the crewing workforce, predominantly employed in the cruise industry. Even in India, where the supply chain industry has a predominantly male workforce, we are now starting to see women occupy at least 15% of the total strength. Consistent growth in diversity over the years notwithstanding, the shipping industry lags in terms of gender parity. Only about 26% of C-suite roles are filled by women. This underrepresentation often trickles down to mid-management and operational roles. In fact, only up to 31% of frontline logistics positions are held by women. The Path to True Equity Merely acknowledging the need for gender balance isn’t enough. Tangible change can only come from actual initiatives. Businesses need to focus on setting up a clear vision. Companies like AP Moller – Maersk have committed to increasing the female ratio to 50% by 2027, from a baseline of 7.6% in 2021.

At Transworld Group, we have set up a goal for achieving a 50:50 gender ratio by 2030 as well as 40% of women taking leadership roles. Achieving these benchmarks requires initiatives led by multifaceted strategies. We not only need to provide women with greater opportunities to shine but also help prepare them to take on bigger roles and responsibilities, making them flag bearers for the cause of gender equity. Ambassador groups dedicated to this cause can play a pivotal role, serving as champions for women in the industry. Mentorship can be transformative in leadership grooming for women. An interesting program is Eklavya by Mahindra Logistics which rotates management trainees through various critical projects while being mentored by members of the leadership team. FedEx’s Leadership, Education, Advancement, and Placement initiative is also a good example of mentorship and hands-on learning.

Becoming a Talent Magnet In a sector with a historically significant gender gap, simply being open to applications from women isn’t enough. We need to demonstrate a strong commitment to creating the right environment for women to thrive. Setting up infrastructure like extended maternity leaves, nursing rooms, and preferred parking for pregnant women, as well as policies for the mental and physical well-being of women in the workplace is essential. Ensuring the existence of an adequate policy on Prevention of Sexual Harassment is a necessity in a safe workplace for female employees. Updating the DEI policy to reflect international standards, such as the UN Women Principles, can also help bring a global perspective into business policies and ensure that the best practices are adopted.

This can also help with hiring. According to a LinkedIn study, companies that spoke about diversity saw 26% more applications from female applicants. Setting Gender Parity Targets Having a goal is important but to bridge the gender gap effectively, clear, and measurable targets are vital to determine the success of such initiatives. This would mean establishing precise key performance indicators which then are implemented across all companies. A targeted approach like this helps in filling existing gaps and strengthening women’s participation. Our industry stands at a critical point, where the steps we take will greatly change the landscape of both our industry and the communities. We, in positions of influence and responsibility, are propelling the shipping industry, our employees – and thereby society – toward a more balanced, inclusive, and sustainable tomorrow.

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