How can the maritime industry promote diversity?

With its international spread, shipping can be described as already diverse in itself, according to Claudia Paschkewitz, Managing Director of Hanse Bereederung, the Hamburg-based shipping broker and business manager. But as the new CSM Group Director of Diversity and Inclusion, she doesn’t think that necessarily extends to issues such as gender. She explains the thought process below.

Shipping needs to attract talented people to grow and prosper, but to attract the right diverse workforce, it needs to be seen as interesting. And to achieve this, shipping needs to understand what matters to society, especially when it comes to the younger generation. The maritime sector must sell itself better to gain market interest and new recruits. We need to move away from the old days of the maritime sector with businessmen in suits, towards a more hybrid approach where young people have the working freedoms they desire.

The problem with diversity is that some organizations may overthink it by making it a checkbox operation as opposed to a natural shift in operational mindset. Additionally, we cannot modify the existing structure immediately as this would disrupt business operations. Change takes time. To initiate change, companies must revise their messages from senior management downwards. I am proud to work for Hanse Bereederung and to be the first ‘CSM Group Director of Diversity and Inclusion’. This signals to our new hires that our company seeks change and wants to take the lead. It shines a light on the issues that matter to the next generation, and that’s key to encouraging them to enter our industry.

The market needs to be more open-minded and generous in its view of the needs of the next generation

The key issues that concern the next generation are the environment, sustainability and diversity. The maritime industry must address these topics and successfully implement them to recruit new blood. Young people are using social media, so the shipping industry needs to jump on the bandwagon and use it to proactively raise the profile of shipping and make our industry attractive. No one will want to pursue a career in a traditional company that lacks enthusiasm, drive and interest.

Covid has shone a light on the maritime sector which has helped to raise its visibility. Because we ordered our goods online and needed them quickly, the public quickly recognized the importance of shipping. Commerce is essential, but if the man in the street doesn’t recognize it or appreciate it, we will struggle to attract new talent. The industry must be open to change. I’ve been in the business for 30 years and I’ve seen a lot of change, but like everything, there’s still room for improvement. It is a process that must come from within the companies; the leadership culture must correspond to the objectives set, otherwise no progress will be made. However, as we have seen with Covid, external circumstances often influence and accelerate this process.

When the younger generation becomes a decision-maker, the issue of diversity will greatly improve because there will be no more divisions. The industry will naturally evolve to become more diverse.

Research on Gen Z shows that they seek meaningful work where they make a difference. They care about brands and the company they work for, so implementing strong core values ​​in a business is essential. The younger generation is also looking for more hybrid work as digitization takes hold. The market must be more open to these new ways of working. Lockdowns pushed a fast-forward button on digitization that showed off the many strengths of technology. There will be a natural return to the office, albeit with some degree of work flexibility, but the market needs to be more open-minded and generous in its view of what the next generation needs and needs to enable change, growth and diversity.