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The Gender, Empowerment and Multicultural Crews (GEM) project, aims to examine seafarers’ welfare, focussing on gender issues arising from multi-cultural crews and isolation. The research and data findings will facilitate the development of appropriate tools to help support women within the industry.

This research into seafarer’s welfare and on-board experiences will draw on the unique access to data from current and former students at the University’s Warsash Maritime Academy, as well as comparable data from China’s Shanghai Maritime University and Nigeria’s National Maritime Academy. This will help to establish patterns relating to the welfare of seafarers, particularly women, and how they are treated on board in today’s multicultural working environment.

The following phase of the project will develop a variety of methods which will disseminate the research findings to those who have the greatest potential to bring about change within the industry; for example, policy makers, maritime educators, recruiters and future cadets. Further, by exploring cultural diversity, isolation and gender equality, this project will also be able to highlight the good practice that will encourage women’s participation in seafaring. It will additionally identify welfare issues that currently prevent women from continuing with their training, leaving the industry early, or not entering it at all.

As such, this project strives to improve the welfare and working conditions on board for all crew, by empowering and supporting women who may be experiencing discrimination and harassment. It will identify gaps in current knowledge, raise awareness of the wider issues surrounding multicultural crews, so that women seafarers can be supported in addressing them and play a fuller role on board ships and beyond.

Industry voices

"Empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurs productivity and growth, and benefits every stakeholder in the global maritime community."
Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General International Maritime Organisation. London February, 2013.

"There are a plethora of factors that influence the wellbeing of seafarers. With only a tiny percentage of the seagoing workforce made up of women, identifying and properly exploring these factors is urgently needed – both so that women are encouraged to become seafarers, and so that female seafarers feel safe, valued and respected while at sea. The Seafarers’ Trust is therefore delighted to sponsor this timely research.”
Kimberly Karlshoej, ITF Seafarers’ Trust.

“This project aims to improve the welfare and working conditions on board for all crew by empowering and supporting women who may be experiencing discrimination and harassment. It will identify gaps in current knowledge and raise awareness of the wider issues surrounding multicultural crews so that women can play a fuller role on board ships and beyond.”
Dr Kate Pike, Senior Research Fellow at Southampton Solent University, and research lead.

The Gender Empowerment and Multicultural Crews Conference

The GEM Conference, held on 16 June 2016 at the ITF Seafarers' Trust in London, brought together many different sectors of the shipping industry to hear about the GEM Project's research findings and discuss the results in themed panel discussions throughout the day. The event provided a forum for stimulating debate and viewpoints to be aired, as well as the opportunity to bring people together for a thought-provoking exchange of ideas on how to attract more women into the industry, and retain those that already work there, within a safe and comfortable working environment.

Women working in this male-dominated industry find themselves in the minority and hence have the spotlight on them at all times. It is important that all minorities, ethnic and gender, are valued and treated equally. The conference demonstrated a real appetite for a culture change within shipping and it is now important to maintain the momentum to help continue to move this important work forward.

The full GEM research findings report will be published over the summer and will be available on this website.

Press releases

Spinnaker Global, 2016. ‘China’s new policies could help female seafarers’. In: Changing Course [online]. 21 January 2016. Available here.

Southampton Solent University, 2016. 'Will more women soon be going to sea?' [online]. In: Official Southampton Solent University [online]. 7 January 2016. Available here.

Ship Management International, 2016. 'China's new policies could help increase numbers of women seafarers' [online]. Ship Management International, 6 January 2016. Available here.

Southampton Solent University, 2015. 'Joint launch of China Centre and maritime research project'. In: Official Southampton Solent University [online]. 28 September 2015. Available here.

Norman, H., 2015. 'Launch of The Gender, Empowerment and Multilateral Crews (GEM) project [online]. ITF Seafarers Trust, 22 September 2015. Available here.

Hampshire Chronicle, 2015. 'Why are there so little shefarers?' [online]. Hampshire Chronicle, 23 June. Available here.

Ross, A., 2015. 'University to look at why so few women work at sea' [online]. Southern Daily Echo, 23 June. Available here.

Southampton Solent University, 2015. 'Research funded to support seafarers' welfare'. In: Official Southampton Solent University [online]. 3 June 2015. Available here.

Nautilus International, 2016. 'A GEM of an idea to attract more women seafarers'. In: Nautilus International [online]. 18 July 2016. Available here.

Sponsorship and supporters 

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