What do a rear admiral, a maritime lawyer and the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 2022 Sailor of the Year have in common? 

All are women who are striving for greater gender equality across the maritime sector, specifically through the framework of partnership and integration, and they shared their thoughts in the lead-up to the May 18 inaugural International Maritime Organisation International Day of Women in Maritime that recognises the achievements of all women in the maritime sector.

The Royal Australian Navy hosted a panel on May 12 at the Sea Power conference at Indo-Pacific 2022 that addressed workforce challenges for women in the maritime sector.

With the session being the first of its kind at a Sea Power conference, the panel included Navy's Head of Maritime Systems Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm, maritime lawyer and president of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association Australia Alison Cusack and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Leading Hand Marine Technician (Propulsion) Jemma Hokai-Mataia.

Rear Admiral Malcolm reflected on the opportunities afforded to a girl from a small country town, who not only has achieved her rank, but did so after taking a career break in the private sector. This private sector experience gave her perspective on the benefits of the Navy environment. 

Ms Cusack spoke candidly about the challenges women face, but who don’t necessarily have the privilege or platform to raise these issues with a wider audience.

She spoke about typecasting of women in the maritime industry and uniform issues to the larger role men can play.

Not only did Ms Cusack set reading homework, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, she also tasked men to show courage, in line with Defence values, by having one-on-one conversations with other men to move the needle on gender equality. 

Leading Hand Jemma Hokai-Mataia provided an international perspective on the challenges and benefits of a diverse workforce, reinforcing the Sea Power 2022 theme of ‘a commonality of purpose’.

Leading Hand Hokai-Mataia has been regularly recognised as a leader in her field, with her most recent award being the RNZN 2022 Sailor of the Year. 

Highlighting the role her father played in empowering her career choices, Leading Hand Hokai-Mataia said she saw the Navy as an opportunity to reach out and experience new and different things,

“I've served on board ships and travelled to interesting places like Canada, as well as having unique training and development opportunities. I love what I am doing and I've found what I was seeking in the maritime industry,” Leading Hand Hokai-Mataia said.

Rear Admiral Malcolm said it was an exciting time to be working in the maritime industry. 

“Being one of the most modern Navy’s in the world, we can offer amazing opportunities working with the newest platforms and technologies on, above and below the sea," she said.

“It’s important we create safe, flexible and inclusive workplaces when attempting to attract, develop and retain talent across the maritime sector."

There is a wide range of opportunities for women in the maritime industry, including in technical and non-traditional roles for women.

To find out more about a career in Defence, visit www.defencejobs.gov.au.