"The WISTA Americas 2018 conference is the first regional WISTA conference in South America and kicks off an effort to grow WISTA in the Americas. Professional development, creating business relationships and community to exchange information, experiences and contacts, and connecting with women in other related institutions and organizations worldwide are part of the WISTA mission,” tells Jeanne Grasso, WISTA Executive Committee Member, Responsible for Development in the Americas, in exclusive to MundoMaritimo before the conference kick-off.
“WISTA is a unique forum to promote and encourage increased participation of women at all levels in the maritime and port sectors. When recognizing the importance of port infrastructure for modern logistics and trade, the maritime and port industry becomes a key driver for boosting competitiveness and in that development the participation of women is fundamental. In this sense, WISTA Americas 2018 will help significantly to contribute to this goal,” says Mona Swoboda, Project Coordinator Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP), Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI), Organization of American States.
To be held June 18-20 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, WISTA AMERICAS 2018 will unite women in shipping and trade from all over the continent to meet and develop relationships that can further the efforts of inclusion and gender equality throughout the region. MundoMaritimo talked to all the women in charge of putting together this historical event, to learn more about the challenges ahead and how they plan to face them as a community.
Why Buenos Aires?
Argentina was the first National WISTA Association to set up actively in the South American region, and WISTA Argentina has always been strong supporters of promoting the incorporation of talented women to the sector and the association, as well as, the formation of other local chapters,” says María Belén Espiñeira, President WISTA Argentina, who was responsible for coordinating the event in Buenos Aires.
The Americas regional conference initiative was first discussed at the 2016 WISTA International Conference aboard the MS Koningsdam in Florida, USA.“WISTA Argentina felt it was especially important to strengthen the presence of WISTA throughout Latin America with the support of other regional National WISTA Associations. Therefore, after the 2016 conference, WISTA Argentina took the initiative to start planning the first WISTA Americas conference in celebration of our 5th anniversary. With the support of all of the regional National WISTA Associations, we promote the development of business, professional relations and friendship all over the world. More than 100 talented women from around the region have registered for the WISTA Americas conference,” says Espiñeria.
“Regional conferences are developed and organized by the National WISTA Associations to further the mission. We are excited by the response WISTA Argentina has received from the regional maritime community and the support it has received from other National WISTA Associations,” adds Grasso.
Growing the WISTA presence
Plans are hatching for the creation of another local WISTA chapter, this time in Chile. Jeanne Grasso says the South American Maritime sector has shown great interest in forming part of the WISTA community. “Female decision makers and executives in the industry are becoming more and more active and looking for the global networking and professional development opportunities joining WISTA offers. We expect to announce the formation of additional National WISTA Associations in South America by the end of the year,” adds the executive.
Mona Swoboda supports the efforts WISTA makes in “recognizing the fundamental role women play in the socioeconomic development of the Western Hemisphere, the Organization of American States (OAS) encourages them to pursue leadership roles in both public institutions and the private sector. In line with its mandates, the OAS Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP) promotes an inclusive, competitive, and socially responsible port and maritime industry. As women are essential to boosting competitiveness, the CIP aims at empowering female professionals in the port sector of the Americas,” says Swoboda.
Gender diversity is a hot topic right now, and the shipping industry is no exception. “The port and maritime community of the Americas has been taking significant steps to promote gender equality and manage their business in a more inclusive manner than ever before. WISTA without a doubt increases the force and effectiveness of these efforts,” comments Swoboda.
“We're proud to be working with our National WISTA Associations worldwide, as well as other maritime industry trade associations, to help move the industry forward toward diversity and inclusion. Global WISTA members have asked WISTA International to create opportunities for them to be catalyst for change on the international level. We're proud to do so through our recent partnerships and agreements with Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, IMO, the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network, and the European Commission’s Platform for Change,” says Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, President WISTA International.
Swoboda adds that it is vital to develop strategies that focus on bringing together female professionals in the port and maritime industry to deepen their integration in the sector. The expert comments that IMO studies have shown that female maritime professionals seek opportunities to share knowledge on related issues, develop networking opportunities, and establish permanent communication channels among each other. In this sense, for the OAS executive WISTA's mission falls in line with a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which has found that an increase in the number of women in management positions results in significantly faster growing economies. Promoting greater participation of women in senior leadership positions allows them to break the so-called “glass ceiling” through their active and essential involvement in decision-making processes.
According to the specialist, the historically male-dominated industry now enjoys a strategic advantage for the promotion of gender equality. “Due to its multidimensional character, it provides an attractive yet challenging workplace for female professionals. Improved working conditions and the elimination of barriers that prevented women from fully participating in the sector contribute to a more equal access to decision-making positions, which results in a notable boost in the industry’s efficiency,” says the executive.
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