By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I
When Isabelle Therrien started in the marine insurance industry 25 years ago, it was almost exclusively a male-dominated industry.
“The progress we have made is a testament to the women who have been a part of this industry and who have given other women the opportunity to enter this industry and create opportunities for them,” said Therrien – now senior vice president – Canada on Falvey Cargo Underwriting. Therrien has held various leading marine underwriting positions in Montreal, Toronto and New York. In addition to Falvey, she spent more than 10 years with Chubb.
“There are jobs in the shipping industry, whether it’s the big shipping industry or marine insurance,” said Therrien, who also chairs the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) freight committee. “We are looking for people who have studied business or logistics, or who have been at sea and now want a job offshore, people who have an interest in global trade.”
With almost half of the current workforce eligible for retirement over the next 10 years, there has never been a better time for women to enter the shipping industry and change the demographic.
“I did not know when I started that I would last this long in marine insurance,” said Therrien, “but if you were trying to take it away from me right now, I would say absolutely not. I love it and I really think it’s a fantastic opportunity for people to learn more about globalization, insurance and how we support global trade. ”
Honor women in shipping
In December 2021, the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a resolution proclaiming the first International Day of Women in Shipping Ever, to be celebrated annually on 18 May.
The focus will be on women in the industry and is intended to promote the recruitment, retention and long-term employment of women in the shipping sector; raise the profile of women in shipping; strengthen the IMO’s commitment to the UN’s sustainable development of gender equality; and support the work to address the current gender imbalance in shipping.
Women’s history in the shipping industry
Women in the shipping industry have a rich history that is rarely given the recognition it deserves, according to the Maritime Institute of Technology (MITAGS). Women have made a name for themselves on the water for hundreds of years – as when emergencies called them to wartime, to provide for their families, to find a better life, or even just to find adventure and new surroundings.
To turn the power
While women still make up only two percent of the 1.2 million seafarers worldwide, it is no longer virtually impossible for them to enter the industry. The main barriers that prevent women from entering non-traditional industries and apprenticeships include:
- Lack of awareness: Perhaps the biggest reason why there are no more women in the maritime sector is simply the lack of knowledge that it is an accessible career path. If women do not already have family members in the industry or know someone who works at sea, it can easily be an option that passes under the radar. Many people do not even consider the maritime industry because it is not the result of the traditional four-year college path.
- Traditional gender roles: The persistent stigma that the shipping industry is only for men is likely to continue to discourage women from joining the field.
The gender differences in marine and marine insurance reflect those that exist in the overall insurance industry. While over 60 percent of the insurance workforce (1.6 million) are women, leadership is where injustice exists, according to an ACORD 2018 study. Women occupy only 19 percent of the board seats, 11 percent of named internal officer positions and 12 percent of top officer positions. Only 8 percent of insurance companies have formal programs to develop strong careers for women. In addition, women in insurance still earn less than men – 62 cents on the dollar. This is even worse than the wage gap in 1951.
There has also been a large discrepancy in promotions. In the shipping industry, most women leave or change jobs because they are kept at a level for so long, which is not the case when their male counterparts have the same qualifications and experience.
About 90 percent of the world’s products are transported by sea. It is one of the largest international industries, with a great need for technical, legal and administrative talent. With the maritime industry growing and the number of capable candidates not keeping up, marine companies are targeting under-represented categories of workers, especially women.
There are career opportunities that cover ship design and construction, management and protection of maritime environment / resources, education, maritime insurance, maritime law, ports and port management as well as administration and management of internal water resources.
Falvey Insurance Group and the American Institute of Marine Underwriters (AIMU) have teamed up for International Day for Women In Maritime to host a panel discussion among women in the shipping industry.
“We are very honored to be a part of this important partnership,” said John Miklus, President of AIMU, a nonprofit organization that represents and promotes the interests of the U.S. marine insurance industry and serves as an educator and resource center for the marine insurance community. “These women are role models for our industry and are extremely talented.”
The event is part of Falvey’s larger series of speeches to highlight professional women – “Women at the helm” – and will include a panel discussion with Captain Alexandra Hagerty, Captain, Executive Leader, Commander of the hospital ship Africa Mercy; Meredith Neizer, Chief Logistics Officer at ARMADA; Tiina Ruhlandt, President and CEO of EIMC; and Karen L. Griswold, SVP Ocean Marine, Property & Specialty at Chubb.