Equally capable of SAR, women still feel the need to outperform men to be taken seriously
The International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) released the first survey results to examine the representation of women across the maritime SAR sector. Supported by Trinity House, this #WomenInSAR study attracted more than 1,600 participants (both men and women) across 48 different countries. The research sought to explore the challenges and barriers faced by women in maritime SAR, along with their personal aims, any experiences of discrimination, and factors affecting recruitment and retention.
Perception is (not) reality
Theresa Crossley, CEO of IMRF remarked: “The theme for International Women’s Day this year is ‘choose to challenge’. It’s remarkably appropriate, as most of the women and men who completed the survey felt that one of the biggest barriers to more women entering maritime SAR, was the perception that it’s a man’s world.”
Noting many survey respondents indicated that women do not have enough representation within the SAR sector, Crossley highlights: “Male dominance remains a fact in the maritime sector in general and maritime SAR is no different. This can have an indirectly discriminatory effect, for example in terms of the facilities and equipment provided.
“Many of the respondents said that ‘you need to see it to be it’ – there are still not enough women in senior roles, or not enough pictures of women in SAR recruitment, training and promotional materials – perpetuating the myth that SAR is just for men. As one respondent said: ‘We don’t need men or women – we just need crew,’” said Crossley.
Captain Ian McNaught, deputy master of Trinity House added: “Both women and men who work in maritime SAR save the lives of those in distress at sea, providing a vital service. In today’s world, it is only right that women should be equally represented across all roles and we are proud to support this initiative.”
Promoting gender diversity
The majority of women respondents who expressed their reasons to be involved in SAR were generally the same from male respondents. Though a significant majority did not report any experience of direct gender discrimination, a substantial minority of women reported issues related to both direct and indirect gender discrimination were among the most challenging aspects of their SAR work. According to the IMRF, and quite a few women still felt the need to outperform men to be taken seriously.
The IMRF is the only maritime SAR organisation with consultative status at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). They will be sharing the results with the IMO in support of its Women in Maritime initiative. Launched in 2019, the #WomenInSAR initiative’s aim is to increase the representation of women in maritime SAR and provide support for women and girls involved in the sector. This survey’s result is expected to help the IMRF focus its efforts on raising awareness and the opportunities available to women in maritime SAR.
Crossley added, “Over and over again, it’s been proven that organisations with an equal balance of men and women are more successful. Maritime SAR has been traditionally a male preserve. Although much has changed over recent years, we’ve still got a way to go. Gender diversity makes sense on every level – we need to make it happen. We’re ‘choosing to challenge’ the perceptions and aiming for equality.”