Image Courtesy: Cristina S. Santa Maria, DNV GL – Maritime
Cristina speaks about her experience as a woman in maritime technology - the challenges she's faced, the journey so far, her expectations of the future, and why a discussion on gender diversity is imperative.
1. How has your journey been as a woman in maritime technology?
In general it has been very good. It is a fact that there are still very few women in the maritime industry, and that I saw since university during my studies in Naval Architecture. I think that was a preparation for what I was going to see afterwards. Having said that, you learn how to navigate that reality and deal with it the best you can.
2. Do you think there has been a significant difference in the past 5 years as to how women are being perceived?
Yes, definitely. This varies across industries, but I think that society, businesses and companies are much more aware now of the fact that we need a more equal workforce, and that there are studies proving that this will result in better performance of companies. The issue is that it takes a long time to solve the equality issue, because you need to start shaping a good pipeline of women professionals since school, then university and then having them in the workforce.
Having a diverse workforce in terms of gender, age, nationality etc is beneficial; it just takes time to reach it.
3. What are the obstacles you faced? How did you overcome them?
The obstacle that I face the most is that you need to put in more effort to be heard, it doesn’t come naturally. To overcome it, I remove any shyness (this comes with practice), and make sure I don’t leave any meeting without giving my opinion, if I feel that I will add value.
When I was working on the field in the shipyards and as a surveyor doing voyage surveys, I found people with a lot of prejudice, due to gender, age and nationality. I overcame that by proving that technically I was sound enough. Afterwards, they forget about it.
4. How do you envisage the future with respect to acceptance and equality for women in the maritime sphere?
I think we are going in the right direction, it just takes time. What we need to do is to continue to empower girls, and women professionals to choose this industry because it is very interesting and rewarding. And we have a lot to give, so don’t be shy.
It is important that we use the time in mentoring and talking to each other, sharing experiences. AND I believe that this is not a “battle of gender”, we need the men onboard helping to achieve this for the benefit of the industry and society.
5. What advice do you have for women who might want to pursue a career in the maritime sector?
I think that this industry is extremely interesting because it is a global industry, which allows you to have a very broad view of the world and how it is interconnected by sea. At the same time, the maritime community is very tight which makes it nice to meet people all over in different positions.
In addition, technology is there to help the industry become more efficient, safe and sustainable. So don’t be shy, and be ready for very exciting opportunities here!
6. What is your perspective on the digitalisation wave the industry is undergoing?
I believe digitalisation is a means for us in the maritime industry to become safer, more efficient, and sustainable from an environmental perspective. So we need to use it to our benefit and the benefit of the industry. This means that we need to be open to change the way we work and do things, but this will come with a benefit.
7. Why do you think there is a need for a discussion on technology today? Why must more women participate in this discussion?
Because it is going to define the way we do our job in the future, and so we need to have a seat at the table to be part of the decisions.