By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I
When Isabelle Therrien started in the marine insurance industry 25 years ago, it was almost exclusively a male-dominated industry.
“The progress we’ve made is a testament to the women that have been part of this industry and that have empowered other women to get into this business and created opportunities for them,” said Therrien — now senior vice president – Canada at Falvey Cargo Underwriting. Therrien has held various senior marine underwriting positions in Montreal, Toronto, and New York. In addition to Falvey, she spent more than 10 years with Chubb.
“There are jobs in the maritime industry, whether it’s the maritime industry at large or marine insurance,” said Therrien, who is also chair of the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) cargo committee. “We look for people that have studied business or logistics, or who have been at sea and now want to have a job outside of being at sea, people who have an interest in global trade.”
With nearly half of the current workforce being eligible for retirement in the next 10 years, there’s never been a better time for women to enter the maritime industry and change the demographic.
“I did not know when I started that I would last this long in marine insurance,” said Therrien, “but if you tried to take it away from me right now, I’d say absolutely not. I love it and I really think it’s a great opportunity for people to learn more about globalization, insurance and how we support global trade.”
Honoring Women in Maritime
In December 2021, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming the first-ever International Day for Women in Maritime, to be observed annually on May 18.
The observance will celebrate women in the industry and is intended to promote the recruitment, retention, and sustained employment of women in the maritime sector; raise the profile of women in maritime; strengthen IMO’s commitment to the UN sustainable development of gender equality; and support work to address the current gender imbalance in maritime.
History of Women in Maritime Industry
Women in the maritime industry have a rich history that’s rarely given the recognition it deserves, according to the Maritime Institute of Technology (MITAGS). Women have been making a name for themselves on the water for hundreds of years – such as when emergencies called them to wartime duty, to support their families, to find a better life, or even just to find adventure and new surroundings.
Turning the tide
While women still only comprise two percent of the 1.2 million seafarers worldwide, it’s no longer virtually impossible for them to enter the industry. The most significant barriers that hinder women from entering non-traditional industries and apprenticeships include:
- Lack of awareness: Perhaps the biggest reason there aren’t more women in the maritime sector is simply a lack of knowledge that it’s an available career path. If women don’t have family members already in the industry or know of someone who works at sea, it could easily be an option that passes under the radar. Many people also don’t even consider the maritime industry because it doesn’t result from the traditional four-year college route.
- Traditional gender roles: The lasting stigma that the maritime industry is for men only likely continues to deter women from joining the field.
Gender inequities in maritime and marine insurance mirror those of the overall insurance industry. While over 60 percent of the insurance workforce (1.6 million) are women, leadership is where inequity exists, according to an ACORD 2018 study. Women occupy only 19 percent of board seats, 11 percent of named inside officer positions, and 12 percent of top officer positions. Only 8 percent of insurers have formal programs to develop strong careers for women. Further, women in insurance still earn less than men – 62 cents on the dollar. This is even worse than the pay gap in 1951.
There has also been a large discrepancy in promotions. In the maritime industry, most women leave or change jobs because they are kept at a level for so long, which is not the case with their male counterparts having the same qualifications and experience.
About 90 percent of the world’s products are carried by sea. It is one of the largest international industries, with a vast need for technical, legal, and administrative talent. With the maritime industry growing and the number of capable candidates not keeping up, marine companies are turning to underrepresented worker categories, especially women.
There are career opportunities covering the design and building of ships, maritime environment/resources management and protection, training, marine insurance, maritime law, ports and harbor management, and administration and managing of internal water resources.
Falvey Insurance Group and the American Institute of Marine Underwriters (AIMU) have partnered for the International Day for Women In Maritime to host a panel discussion amongst women in the maritime industry.
“We are very honored to be a part of this important partnership,” said John Miklus, president of the AIMU, a not-for-profit trade association representing and promoting the interests of the U.S. ocean marine insurance industry and serving as an educator and resource center for the marine insurance community. “These women are role models for our industry and are extremely accomplished.”
The event is part of Falvey’s larger speaker series to highlight professional women — “Women at the Helm” – and will include a panel discussion with Captain Alexandra Hagerty, Ship Captain, Executive Leader, Master on Hospital Ship Africa Mercy; Meredith Neizer, Chief Logistics Officer at ARMADA; Tiina Ruhlandt, President & CEO at EIMC; and Karen L. Griswold, SVP Ocean Marine, Property & Specialty at Chubb.