March 8 was International Women’s Day and March is National Women’s Month. The advocacies, accomplishments, and pursuits that women in the Philippines would like to highlight are so many that an entire month, not just a single day, is needed to celebrate them all.
March is when women get discounts at malls and salons, as well as on shows, food and culinary events. It is also when men appear to pay special attention to women, not only in showing affection, but also in appreciating their contributions to the community, society, and country. But really, what better way to show that appreciation than to recognize women as co-equals—as allies, not competitors—in the workplace.
The Philippine maritime industry appears to be liberal when it comes to engaging women in the workplace. Women are found in the executive offices of big shipping companies and recruitment agencies. They sit on the boards of training institutes and logistics corportations. There are even women occupying high positions in government maritime agencies.
Despite these, there are other maritime-related jobs that are not easily accessible to women. Ships, shipbyards, ports and waterfronts are some areas where you hardly find female workers, or if at all, they are consigned to perform clerical and documentation tasks. Is it because women generally shy away from these workplaces? Or could it be that they have no idea that there are employment opportunities there?
One question that is often asked is if women in the male-dominated industry enjoy the same rights and privileges as men. Generally they do, especially in government agencies, where employment qualifications and work conditions are dictated by a plethora of national civil service rules and standards.
In the private sector, different rules may apply, as human-resource policies are formulated based on norms dictated by company owners/proprietors or boards. Hiring and promoting high-ranking personnel in this case may not necessarily follow the principles of competition. And this reality is easily understood and accepted.
Women in maritime workplaces may enjoy the basic rights and priviliges granted to them by the law. But there are actions or acts of omission against them that have escaped notice. Sometimes, those subjected to these acts are unaware that their rights were violated. And these situations are alarmingly evident in both public and private maritime enterprises or agencies.
Sexual harassment or verbal abuse could take on many forms and be even construed as mere expressions of concern, such that the victim would not suspect the perpetrator’s intentions. Even more distressing is the indifference greeting those who do complain of such behavior, since their cases are decided on by male superiors.
One looks around and sees women taking the lead in maritime debates and dialogues. There are those who are good in maritime affairs, but how many concern themselves with the lot of women involved in the maritime industry, like those girls who are pursuing maritime studies and female employees enduring sexual harrassment by maritime officials and executives? In fact, some female maritime executives tolerate, if not actively participate in rejecting job applicants because of their gender.
Despite these circumstances, it is encouraging to know that there are women in maritime who are sensitive to female victims of harassment and abuse. Some of them, by virtue of their official roles, are involved in uplifting the condition of women by enhancing awareness and inspiring these women to leave their dehumanizing situation. Others may go as far as scrutinizing recruitment and promotion policies and procedures to ensure these do not engender discrimination against women.
There are also those women who come together to bring about discernible changes in the way the maritime industry regards women. They are now a team that works tirelessly to encourage women and girls to pursue the maritime profession. This is a group that believes the maritime industry should promote gender parity. This is a team that relentlessly raises the consciousness of the government and the public on increasing female participation in the maritime industry. This is the group that continues to inspire Asian women in maritime on what they can do to promote maritime safety and marine envirionment protection, and expand women’s participation in economic activities that will generate greater social returns. |
These women keep moving forward. Together, they constitute Women in Maritime Philippines, or Wimaphil.