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PROFILE: Women in Maritime Association Caribbean (WiMAC)

Sterling support for women in search of a maritime career

WiMAC (Women in Maritime Association Caribbean) was launched in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in April 2015. It is the youngest of seven regional associations of female maritime professionals established under the banner of the International Maritime Organization.

The aim of these associations is to provide a forum for networking and advocacy in support of the IMO’s own program for the integration of women in what is still a highly traditional and male-dominated industry.

wimac logoWiMAC is governed by an eight-member general council led by the president, Claudia Grant of Jamaica. Other members are from Trinidad & Tobago (two), Jamaica, Suriname, Antigua & Barbuda, Belize and the Cayman Islands. The president and general council serve a two-year term and may be re-elected.

The inaugural conference of WiMAC was held in Montego Bay in 2015 and its first annual conference was in the Cayman Islands in September 2016. The next annual conference is to be held in Belize in 2018. This will probably be in September but the date has not been finalized.

Impetus

The impetus for WiMAC was born out of the 2nd Maritime Women Global Leadership Conference hosted by the World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmö, Sweden, in the spring of 2014. Jamaica was invited to participate in this conference and to present a Regional Perspective. Its conference paper, ‘Women in the Maritime Sector: Surviving and Thriving in a Man’s World – a Caribbean Perspective’, was the result of a joint collaboration between the Maritime Authority of Jamaica and the Caribbean Maritime Institute. The findings of this paper were informed by a survey conducted in eight Caribbean states – Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago – involving some 40 female maritime professionals from various sectors of the industry. One of its recommendations was the need to establish a network of national/regional associations in order to:

  • Unite women as a cohesive force for change and development
  • Monitor standards and initiatives to encourage gender equity
  • Promote the maritime sector as a viable career for women, including access to training
  • Identify and promote job opportunities.

These findings were very much in line with the IMO and its strategy under the Integration of Women in the Maritime Sector Program. In response to the survey, the director general of the MAJ, Rear Admiral Peter Brady, formally asked the IMO to assist the Caribbean Region in setting up its own network of regional female maritime professionals. In response to specific questions from CM, a spokesperson for WiMAC gave us the following answers:

Q. The CSA was one of the first such organisations to elect a female president – Corah-Ann Robertson-Sylvester – but there have been surprisingly few high-profile female members of the general council or higher since then. Why is this? A: We could not say for sure what the issues are, but in conversation with a number of our colleagues, it’s a combination of issues:

  • Elements of the proverbial glass ceiling are still prevalent and interested female executives/professionals could perceive a lack of support from the ‘boys club’
  • In some cases it could well be simply lack of interest in ascending to the highest level of leadership
  • Absence of a serious lobby to catapult women to the forefront so that they don’t have to go it alone. This is a void which can be a call to action for WiMAC.

Q. What is WiMAC doing to attract more women into the maritime sector? A: WiMAC recognizes there is a general lack of awareness among the average Caribbean national as to the potential career opportunities in the maritime industry. We have therefore included, as one of our strategic objectives, activities to increase awareness. Thus, schools will be targeted to influence career choices. We are also aware that women have entered the industry and have either left or do not see any prospect for advancement. We have therefore also included programs for mentoring and training and education to support and equip women in order to increase their contribution and participation in the industry. The following has also been done:

  • Established partnerships with the Jamaica Ministry of Education, the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) and over 200 secondary schools in Jamaica to promote the maritime sector and to make the secondary school students aware of the many career opportunities in the maritime and associated industries.
  • In conjunction with the Ministry of Education, the CMU and WiMAC have pioneered with the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) the introduction of Logistics Operations Management as an additional subject in the curriculum. This subject will be offered in Caribbean Advance Proficiency Exam (CAPE) CXC examinations in 2018 in the Caribbean.
  • WiMAC has developed a vibrant outreach program to be offered in schools across the Caribbean. At our inaugural conference in Cayman, a team of ladies visited prominent schools and colleges to promote the industry. This will be a permanent feature of WiMAC conferences.

Also in the offing, in a bid to rekindle interest in science and engineering subjects for our next generation, WiMAC, CMU and the Ministry of Education will launch a national SeaPerch [underwater robotics] program as an important part of the solution. This will take place in January 2018.

  • Q. Across the Caribbean, do you see any role models for aspiring women entering the shipping industry? A: There are a number of women who have achieved a level of prominence in the industry and also a number who have broken barriers and these include:
  • Corah Ann Robertson-Sylvester, president of Seaboard Jamaica and the first and to date only female president of the Caribbean Shipping Association
  • Ann-Marie Chapman, first and only female marine pilot, Trinidad & Tobago Pilots Association
  • Hortense Ross-Innerarity, first female Superintendent of Pilotage, Jamaica.
  • Claudette Rogers, director general, Maritime Authority, Guyana
  • Antonette Wemyss-Gorman, commanding officer of the JDF Coast Guard
  • Merlene Martinez, ports commissioner, Belize Port Authority
  • Denise Lynfatt, first female president, Shipping Association of Jamaica.

This list is by no means exhaustive and we are currently compiling a database of female mentors for the very purpose of inspiring and encouraging women and girls.

Q. WiMAC has close links with the WMU in Malmö. Are there any plans to forge equally close ties with the CMU in Jamaica? A: Prior to the establishment of WiMAC there has been collaboration with the CMU (formerly the Caribbean Maritime Institute) as the paper which provided the impetus for our establishment was co-authored by the CMU’s deputy executive director. Since that time we have collaborated in other areas. WiMAC and the CMU intend to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue several areas of interest including:

  • Joint research
  • Expansion of outreach programs in the Caribbean
  • Provision of scholarships for needy and deserving female students
  • Joint fundraising ventures.

Q. What links does WiMAC have with the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association? A: So far our link with WISTA is via WISTA Cayman Islands, whose past president is currently on WiMAC’s general council. However, we see scope for collaboration in the future.

 

Mission and vision of WiMAC

The mission of WiMAC is to foster the development and participation of women in the maritime sector and contribute to the growth of the industry within the region through:

  • Empowerment of women through capacity building
  • Advocacy on issues affecting women and the industry
  • Lobbying and contributing to the development of responsive legislative and regulatory environments
  • Mentorship to facilitate career advancement and professional well-being of women in the sector
  • Networking to share best practices and forging of partnerships to strengthen the industry and provide opportunities for resource mobilization
  • Recognition of achievements among maritime women
  • Promotion of the maritime industry
  • Contribution to research and development to the maritime industry
  • Corporate and social responsibility.

The strategic vision of WiMAC is to be a key resource for the sustainable development of the maritime sector.

 

Membership of WiMAC

WiMAC has 46 members from the following 18 countries: Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Panama, Saint Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, United States of America and Trinidad & Tobago.