A session summary from the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Barcelona

On 21st June 2018, a session to discuss ‘How to consider gender in social responsibility’ was convened by the International Association for Women in the Seafood Industry (WSI) and IPNLF at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit, Barcelona. This forum provided an ideal opportunity for four thought-leaders to share their perspectives on gender issues in seafood supply chains.

Marie-Christine Monfort, Co-founder and President of WSI, provided a sectoral overview, presenting some of the outcomes of a recent survey conducted with 700 seafood professionals investigating their perception of gender in their workplaces. She highlighted that over 50% of respondents recognise the existence of gender inequalities and 80% consider this industry not attractive to women among those who are in capacity to choose.

Further insight was given by Micheline Dion Somplehi from the African Confederation of Artisanal Fishing Organisations, who urged that greater attention should be paid to recognising the role women are playing in African fisheries and supporting activities to improve their circumstances as a core component of action toward seafood sustainability.

Providing a personal perspective on being a woman in the seafood industry, Hanaa Bechache, Senior Regional Sales Manager at Clearwater Seafoods, underscored the importance of a supportive work culture for nurturing female talent and the need for companies to actively address gender equity, rather than implicitly.

Peter Hajipieris, global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for Regal Springs, then outlined factors that need to be considered to effect gender equity in the workplace, including reviewing talent attracting methods; selecting from a diverse pool of candidates; and creating a flexible working environment. He stressed that gender balance in companies must be driven from the top.

Following the presentations, three breakout groups were formed to discuss building gender equity in seafood supply chains and fisheries. Below is a summary of the key points that were raised in the group discussions.

How we see the issue today

  • Many seafood professionals do not know what the problem is. It is key to raise awareness and bring people together and start discussing the issue; what the problems are and their implications.
  • The visibility of women is still a problem and they are under-represented in high-level conferences.
  • More women are increasingly better educated; does this mean we can expect the balance to improve?
  • There are indications that some changes have already taken place with examples of women now holding down “men’s jobs” e.g. vessel captains, directors of production, etc.

What needs to be done now

  • Share experiences, explore lessons learned from market-leaders and NGOs, and open up discussions to generate ideas on how supply chains can address gender equity as part of the sustainable seafood movement.
  • For supply chain businesses: consult the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles; educate what ‘Equal Opportunity’ means with specific reference to gender as the majority of the industry are not aware; encourage companies to start publishing equality statements; look at the role buyers can play in insisting suppliers address gender equity.
  • Conduct research to provide a baseline understanding of the gender balance in different parts of the seafood sector to serve as a reference point for this movement.
  • Examine and publicise case studies to show responsible and/or good practice.
  • Use International Women’s Day to create initiatives that highlight the role of women.
  • Increase women’s visibility by getting them on panels and speaking at events – an example was given of the commitment made by members of the Association of CSR Managers and Directors in Spain to have 40% women on every panel that they organise.
  • Empower women through education, training, apprenticeships and mentoring.
  • Bring men into the discussion – this is not and should not be a ‘women only’ issue.

This was a well-attended and energising session that demonstrated an interest in gender equity among the summit attendees and the sustainable seafood movement more broadly. WSI and IPNLF would like to thank everyone who contributed to the session. As the list above indicates, there is no shortage of good ideas for the ways in which we can work collectively to keep gender on the agenda.