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Women in Maritime: Aminath Shimna, Company Secretary, MSS

Women in Maritime: Aminath Shimna, Company Secretary, MSS

The maritime industry has traditionally been a man’s world, but that’s changing. On the International Day of Women in Maritime, MMJ spotlights Aminath Shimna, who has thrived in this challenging environment, working her way up to Company Secretary at the Maldives State Shipping Company. She offers valuable insights for other women considering a career in maritime, including the challenges to expect, the importance of finding mentors, and the bright future for women in this dynamic field.

1) Can you give us a brief description of your career in Maritime?

      I began my journey in the maritime industry with Maldives State Shipping Company Private Limited during its infancy in February 2021, starting as an Executive Secretary. In this role, I handled a wide range of responsibilities, including managing incoming and outgoing communications, preparing crucial documents, and registrations, coordinating executive schedules & travels, corporate events, and ensuring effective communication within the organization and between the senior management and the company secretariat.

      As my role expanded, I took on significant responsibilities in HR, administration, and procurement. This included managing recruitment, payroll, training & development, employee relations, compliance, and managing the procurement and tender process. These diverse responsibilities helped me develop a broad skill set and a comprehensive understanding of the internal workings of the company.

      In November 2023, I was also appointed as the Company Secretary, where I now ensure compliance with legal and regulatory standards, maintain corporate records, and facilitate effective communication between the board of directors, senior management, and shareholders.

      Additionally, since March 2023, I have also been serving as the Secretary General of MSS Recreation Club. This role involves organizing a variety of recreational activities, which have significantly contributed to enhancing team morale and cohesion.

      2) As an executive secretary in a male-dominated industry like maritime shipping, what challenges have you faced in your career journey, and how did you overcome them?

      Navigating a career in the maritime industry, which is traditionally male-dominated, presents unique challenges. One of the primary challenges is the potential lack of mentorship and support networks. Today, women represent only 1.2% of the global seafarer workforce as per the BIMCO/ICS 2021 Seafarer Workforce Report. As an industry where men predominantly work, finding female mentors and role models who can share their experiences, especially in the Maldives where shipping has been inactive for a few decades has been difficult. However, my male mentors have provided me with invaluable insight, knowledge, and networks which have helped guide me to keep evolving and adapting to this industry.

      Recruiting skilled workers in the maritime sector, especially women is challenging due to a lack of awareness about it as a career path. Without a familiar connection in the industry, many women overlook maritime careers. Additionally, the field is often bypassed by those following a traditional college route, further limiting interest. This lack of awareness hinders the recruitment of talent, underscoring the need for increased outreach and awareness efforts to attract more women to maritime roles.

      Since its inception, MSS has trained over 70% of its workforce fresh to the dynamics of this industry through on-the-job training and specific training classes. At MSS, I consider myself fortunate and privileged to work alongside an exceptional team, where 50% of our shore-based employees are women. Witnessing my colleagues’ growth and development, along with myself and the company has been immensely gratifying, and I take great pride in the collective achievements we’ve accomplished. Together, we have undertaken remarkable initiatives with MSS that have made a substantial impact on our country’s economy in just a few years.

      3) Throughout your career, have you had any female mentors or role models in the maritime shipping industry? If so, how did their guidance or influence shape your path?

      Similar to the rest of the world, the Maldivian maritime industry is also dominated by men. In 2022, there were 230 seamen agreements registered with MoTCA, of which there were no seafaring women. There are very few organizations in the Maldives such as MSS, STO, MTCC, MPL, MoTCA, MNU and a few private freight forwarding businesses which employ women in maritime. Therefore, male mentors have been guiding lights in this industry where female mentorship is sparse.

      Their seasoned guidance has kept me informed of industry trends and shaped my professional path. Their awareness of maritime operations, regulatory changes, and emerging technologies has equipped me with the knowledge to strategically navigate the sector effectively. Additionally, they have played a crucial role in my personal growth, providing me with complex challenges in this sector and advice on problem-solving, whilst igniting their passion for this industry in me.

      Moreover, my mentors have facilitated networking and industry integration, providing me access to key contacts and participation in industry events. Their unwavering support has helped me navigate this male-dominated environment with confidence.

      4) What advice would you give to young women who are interested in pursuing a career in the maritime shipping industry?

      As we are a heavily import-dependent country, the maritime shipping industry in the Maldives plays a significant role in supporting our island economy – a role that will only get bigger in the future. This industry presents a plethora of lucrative opportunities, both offshore and onshore. Offshore roles, while demanding, offer enticing remuneration packages and benefits, along with the chance to explore global trade intricacies through extensive travel.

      The maritime sector extends far beyond offshore jobs. You can pursue diverse careers ashore such as a naval architect, lawyer, engineer, hydrographer, marine superintendent, port captain, marine surveyor, or delve into various commercial aspects such as liner shipping services, the agency works, freight forwarding, NVOCC, chartering, brokerage, administrative aspects such as shipping accounting, regulatory compliance, insurance, clearance, administration, recruitment, training & development, vessel operations, port operations and safety management. Working in this dynamic industry brings opportunities for continuous learning and growth and also provides you with access to the global trade market.

      5) The maritime industry has traditionally had a bias towards men. How do you see this perception changing, and what role can women play in breaking down these stereotypes?

      The maritime industry is perceived as a male-dominated domain, but this narrative is evolving as women increasingly assert their presence and influence within the sector. With the drive towards digitalization and decarbonization, new avenues for work are opening up for women in traditionally male-dominated roles. IMO-WISTA Women in Maritime survey in 2021 demonstrated that women accounted for 1/5th of the workforce in this industry. 39% of women within the surveyed companies work in mid-management, 28% in technical core roles, and 48% in administrative and support roles. Women are actively participating in the sector now and assuming leadership positions, debunking myths about gender roles and showcasing their competence and capability. With MSS, we have opened up a diverse pathway for our women to become leaders in this industry, inspire future generations and show that nothing is off limits.

      This year’s IMO WIM theme “Safe Horizons: Women Shaping the Future of Maritime Safety,” highlights the crucial role women play in enhancing safety measures, whether through their roles as seafarers, maritime professionals, or in leadership positions. It is necessary for employers to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for women in maritime, ensuring equal opportunities and promoting their valuable contributions to maritime safety and smooth sailing.

      6) Can you tell us about any specific initiatives or programs that Maldives State Shipping has in place to support and empower women in the workplace?

      First and foremost, all our employees receive competitive and equitable compensation without any gender disparities and are treated with equal respect. Though this industry is demanding, we offer flexible working options to accommodate the diverse needs of our staff. We use gender-neutral language in our job announcements and descriptions.

      Every year, along with IMO, MSS also celebrates the contributions of Women in Maritime in the industry. In 2023, MSS introduced the Women in Maritime Internship program, demonstrating our dedication to talent development and diversity in the maritime workforce. Through this initiative, interns receive training in shipping accounting and operations.

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      7) The maritime shipping industry can be demanding with long hours. How do you, and how do women in general in this field, achieve a healthy work-life balance?

      Effective time management is essential, involving prioritizing tasks and setting realistic goals to allocate time for work responsibilities and personal commitments. Establishing boundaries between work and personal life is crucial to prevent burnout.

      Utilizing support systems, including family, friends, and colleagues, provides invaluable assistance in managing both professional and personal demands. Flexibility and adaptability are also key factors, allowing me to adjust schedules to accommodate changing work requirements and personal responsibilities.

      Ultimately, open communication with supervisors and colleagues fosters understanding and support, ensuring that women feel empowered to prioritize their well-being while fulfilling their duties in the maritime shipping industry. Through these strategies, women can strike a balance between their professional endeavours and personal lives, leading to enhanced overall well-being and success.

      8) Looking towards the future, what are your expectations for the role of women in the maritime shipping industry? How do you see the industry evolving to be more inclusive and supportive of women?

      Looking towards the future, the expectations for the role of women in the maritime shipping industry are promising and transformative. As the industry continues to evolve and embrace diversity and inclusion, women are expected to play increasingly significant roles across all facets of maritime operations.

      One expectation is a greater representation of women in leadership positions within maritime organizations. The more women there are in the maritime sector who rise through the ranks, the more the industry demographic will change for the better. As more women ascend to leadership roles, they will bring diverse perspectives, attention to detail, innovative ideas, and valuable insights to decision-making processes, driving positive change and shaping the future direction of the industry.

      Additionally, there is an expectation for women to continue breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes within the maritime sector. Through their visibility, advocacy, and leadership, women will contribute to creating more inclusive and equitable work environments, where all individuals, regardless of gender, can thrive and succeed.

      Moreover, the future of the maritime shipping industry will likely see an increase in opportunities for women to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated roles, such as shipboard positions and technical roles. With advancements in technology and training programs, women will have greater access to the education and resources needed to excel in these areas.

      Overall, the future holds immense potential for women in the maritime shipping industry, with opportunities for leadership, innovation, and advancement. By leveraging their talents, skills, and determination, women will continue to make significant contributions to the industry’s growth and success, shaping a more diverse, inclusive, and sustainable maritime workforce for generations to come.

      MMJ News Desk
      Author: MMJ News Desk

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