I first ask, rhetorically, what does the maritime sector in 2050 look like for you?
In any company in the marine industry, we all know that the workforce is composed of different types, worldwide. People are a mix of cultures, life experiences, beliefs, personalities and of course generations. There is, so to speak, a great variety of uniqueness. Just while writing I am reflecting on this, and also on how important it is for our organisation to have diverse personnel.
Diversity, to my mind, is about connection. It is about bringing all together – seafarers, shore-based people, everyone in the maritime labour market across all companies worldwide – and making them feel that they all belong, and in an industry where everyone is treated with dignity, paid fairly for the same effort and given equal chances.
Thus, true diversity means more than just hiring people of various nationalities or trying to address gender balance.
Seafarers already come in all shapes and sizes, and (with all my experience as one with the Synergy Marine Group), I can say that working with people from other countries, such as for example Indian seafarers, is a fantastic adventure. When it comes to job experience, views or ideas, we all always share what we have learned. And sharing means connection.
Also, many of us were born in completely different eras. There are seafarers from what used to be called the baby boomer generation, and what are now called millennials, and as we move forward in the 21st century the maritime industry is adapting to changes as we embrace new technology and innovation. Here, the younger millennials help with greater knowledge and sharing of ideas, and the older baby boomers share their professional experience and skills.
Thus a difference like this in shipping companies allows them to transfer experience and ability from the older-fashioned structures to the more modern shipping systems, and both generations learn from what is a very healthy exchange – connection, again.
And there is the man/woman thing, too. Nowadays, women who started as Cadets have become Master Mariners and Chief Engineers, and in future years I expect and certainly hope to see even more on gender equality in the maritime industry.
We all know that men still make up the majority, but if a female seafarer can do a job or perform a role as well as, or better than, a male one, there is of course no reason why she should not, and in time we will, increasingly, see women accomplish just as much as men do, and thus part of the proof of the rightness of gender equality.
These notions of generation and gender are differences, or distinctions, if you like, but they are alternative routes, rather than roadblocks, and the synthesis involved in putting things together, of creating a unity of diverse qualities, can help us all to improve the maritime business.
And in view of all this, what, indeed, do we need to do within the next five years in order to make this reality? I believe that the whole team which is the Synergy Marine Group will play a large part in turning things around and making this achievable, as the Synergy family is already in this together (and connected) in order to attain our objectives.
First, and very obviously, everyone needs to establish a fair hiring process, i.e. one that operates regardless of age, gender, nationality, skin colour and caste. A really good guide to that would be to garner feedback from seafarers. It would certainly help improve the whole process of recruiting.
Second, increasingly actively promote the advantages of a gender–balanced workforce, to better encourage women to join.
Third, continue to offer events, seminars and training for all seafarers in order to increase their technological knowledge and skills, and thus better achieve the exchange referred to above.
We are all different. And those differences create multiple points of view, bringing together different ideas or work experience, with the potential to lead to success. It can also aid in the development of creativity and inventiveness.
After eight years of working in Synergy Group Operations Inc. in Manila, I can confidently say that diversity and inclusion are highly respected, and that everyone is treated equally. And I have no doubt that this value will be maintained. There must be something in the very name, too, because, as the American educator and keynote speaker Stephen R. Covey puts it : “Synergy is better than my way or your way. It is our way.” By embracing and connecting diverse qualities we can all achieve success altogether.