March 15, 2024
How to Close the Gender Gap in the Blue Economy
During  the 11th Annual World Ocean Summit and Expo in Lisbon (11th-13th March 2024) Maria Damanaki, co - founder of Leading Women for Oceans, took part at the workshop: “How to close the gender gap in the blue economy” in an interactive discussion with the expert speakers: Assunção Cristas, Huan Zheng, Inge Relph and Tatiana Der Avedissian.

In the blue economy, remains a stark gap between men and women participation. The session addressed how to close the gender gap and assessed the various ways of doing this, including, community projects, education, raising awareness of the employment opportunities, policy and funding. Speakers and participants focused on how to involve stakeholders from policy, education, the private sector and NGOs, to achieve inclusion in the blue workforce.

Maria Damanaki noticed  that there is a lack of knowledge and data which would be necessary to infer any gender-related biases in blue economy sectors. This is especially evident in emerging ICT sectors, such as AI and robotics. She underlined the need for establishing data collection practices, coupled with their analyses. This can lead to evidence-based activities that result in diminished inequalities and better positioning of women in blue economy sectors.

The highest percentage of female employees can be found in the tourism sector, while fisheries and aquaculture, robotics and AI have the lowest proportion of female employees. Maria Damanaki mentioned that positive incentives for women to join blue economy can be given from educational systems, enhancing a new culture on womens’ capabilities and then directly from the public and private sector decision makers.

Tourism, energy, and cutting-edge marine technologies  have under - and post-graduate study programmes that broadly cover the sector and marine-specialised niches therein can be introduced. On the other hand, blue biotechnologies, aquaculture, and fisheries do not have specialized educational programmes and technical knowledge is obtained through life-long learning. Τhe participation of women in shipping, fisheries and aquaculture is connected to the improvement of working conditions and the introduction of family friendly practices.

A clear message must be send to decision makers: Participation of women in blue economy is not just good for them. It is an asset for business and society. The  higher women's representation in the sector can boost local, regional and national economies.