13th October 2023
All Aboard for Diversity in the Maritime Sector
Like many other UK sectors, maritime has had its period of self-reflection and realisation. The industry is beginning to recognise that its workforce is not as representative of the UK population as it could be. There are opportunities to maximize the diversity of the sector’s workforce by attracting and retaining diverse talent.
Positive initiatives from umbrella bodies such as Maritime UK’s Diversity in Maritime programme, which promotes the sector as one that “embraces diversity and creates a supportive and open atmosphere for all,", will undoubtedly work towards making a positive difference. This can be achieved by facilitating networking groups for allies and those with lived experience, as well as organising events and webinars.
The focus on diversity (i.e. understanding the ‘makeup’ of the current workforce population, the gender split, the ethnic and social backgrounds, etc.) is often where industries start on their journey. After all, what gets measured gets done. There is a lot of value in developing a starting position statement, so you can compare and contrast as well as track the progress being made.
Evidence to demonstrate the far-reaching business benefits of diversity is undeniable. Diversity provides different perspectives, increasing creativity and innovation, better decision-making and faster problem-solving. Furthermore, investing in diversity can enhance an organisation’s reputation, improve hiring results, reduce employee turnover, increase levels of engagement and ultimately increase profit. People trust leaders who reflect the diversity of the people they lead and the customers they serve. It’s a strong business case!
But diversity without inclusion won’t always stack up. An inclusive workplace culture is one in which everyone feels that they belong. They are being heard, recognised, valued and appreciated. Creating an inclusive culture is what both attracts and retains diverse talent. A recent survey by The Unmistakeables highlighted that approximately 50% of people would leave a workplace if it didn’t feel inclusive.
In addition, an inclusive culture has a hugely positive impact on personal well-being. As social animals we all crave a sense of belonging, it’s part of our DNA. We all want to feel respected and listened to, regardless of our background or experience.
Creating, embedding and sustaining an inclusive culture doesn’t happen overnight and doesn’t happen in a vacuum - everyone, regardless of their position, has a role to play. Equipping people (especially leaders and those who manage) with confidence and fluency on this subject is critical and there are three top tips to embed an inclusive culture in which diversity is embraced - these are learned, challenge and support:
Learn - be open to learning and cultivate a learning curiosity. As individuals, we should take the opportunity to learn about those with different lived experiences. Organisations can encourage and facilitate learning opportunities in so many ways - celebrate different awareness-raising days throughout the year, encourage colleagues to share useful information and news items on your internal communications channels, publicise the work of your staff network group if you have one (or start one if you don’t).
Challenge - what we permit, we promote and our culture, is only as good as the worst behaviour we tolerate. We can all take responsibility to challenge effectively if we come across someone whose behaviour or language is unacceptable. These challenges don’t have to be confrontational and the best thing we can do is ‘be prepared’. Consider in advance how to interrupt someone whose behaviour isn’t quite right. Have your ‘go to’ challenge-response ready - the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Support - allies are critical. You don’t have to have personal, lived experience of something to advocate with and stand alongside others. And ally ship doesn't have to be grand, sweeping gestures. You can show your ally ship in smaller ways - by sharing your personal pronouns in your email signature or Zoom/Teams profile, by educating yourself on different issues, showing an interest in the work of or joining a staff network group, being a mentor to someone new to the sector who doesn’t have an established network yet, or by donating or fundraising for causes you care about. Lots of small actions can make a big difference.
As a sector, getting everyone on board is critical but to do that we have to keep this subject live and current. The organisations that get this right are those where leaders are open and honest about the learning journey they are on. It’s so important to keep the conversations going as that is how we will all become better at learning about diversity and inclusion, challenging what isn’t quite right and supporting each other.
Lucy Malarkey and Karen Faulkner are the Directors and co-founders of Positive About Inclusion and will be taking part in Maritime Innovation Week. To register for a free delegate place, visit https://yoonity.io/v/maritimeinnovationweek2023
Positive About Inclusion is an equality, diversity and inclusion consultancy and training provider, a social enterprise established in 2020 when Lucy and Karen took the opportunity to pivot from long-standing careers in the public sector to pursue their passion for supporting organisations to embed inclusion. They work with a broad range of clients from the public, private and charitable sectors, providing services ranging from cultural health checks to mindset training, and from inclusive recruitment workshops to sessions designed to energise and enthuse diversity champions. For more information, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website.