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In the same boat – EBH Namibia’s female employees riding the crest of the maritime
career wave
1 April 2016

  From carpentry to procurement, welding to training – the women at Elgin Brown & Hamer (EBH) Namibia are working hard and having fun. Having found themselves in a tough industry, one that has been traditionally dominated by men, these women all have one thing in common: they like to stand up and be counted.

‘Be yourself’ and ‘stand up for what you believe in’; ‘hold your head up high’ – these are common phrases uttered by EBH women, who all pay tribute to a company that, far from being discriminative, actively encourages career development among all its employees, men and women.

“As women at EBH we are given the chance to study and grow in our careers. We feel honoured, and empowered to make decisions,” says Klaudia Shitthigona, Acting Technical Training Officer in the HR Department at EBH Namibia.

A culture of teamwork – the key to success

Since its inception in 2006, the company has enjoyed a growing reputation as the shipyard of choice along the west coast of Africa. A culture of teamwork and an emphasis on training and skills development has been the cornerstone to the company’s success, according to Hannes Uys, Chief Executive Officer at EBH Namibia.

Actively promoting non-discriminatory recruitment practices, EBH Namibia now boasts a growing number of female employees, especially in historically male-dominated jobs such as welding, carpentry and electrical.

Bridging the gender gap across the board

“In a globally competitive industry such as shipping, where world-class standards have to consistently be achieved, the skills of each and every individual, regardless of gender, have to be nurtured and maximised,” says Uys. “We believe that EBH Namibia has made significant headway when it comes to setting the trend in empowering women in the maritime sector, thereby bridging the gender gap on many levels,” says Uys.

Elizabeth Mandume, Carpentry Foreman at EBH Namibia, enjoys the culture of inclusivity in the company and the support she receives from management in problem-solving. Mandume has moved up the ranks from artisan to supervisor level, something she puts down not only to hard work and self-belief; but to the benefits of ongoing training and support.

“The company has empowered me in my role as supervisor. I appreciate the opportunities I have had for further training at this level. This includes attending an international conference where I learnt a lot through networking with other women leaders in the maritime industry in Africa.”

While Klaudia Shitthingona appreciates a culture of equal rights in the workplace, she concedes that the maritime environment can be “hard and tough”, and that women need to be well prepared when it comes to negotiating prices and contracts with their male counterparts. “You need to stand your ground and be prepared to win an argument!” she advises.

“I believe many employers prefer to give jobs to women because we work in a clearer, more organised and structured way,” she adds.

The confidence to stand up and be heard

For Candice Damens, Organisational Development and Training Superintendent at EBH Namibia, it is essential for a woman in a male-dominated industry to be confident. We have come a long way, but I believe women still have a lot to prove within the vocational sphere.”

“What I appreciate about EBH Namibia,” she continues, “is that I can raise my opinions and concerns and make decisions in a manner which is respected and given fair consideration by management.”
Mona-Lisa Katjivari, who has worked as buyer in EBH’s Procurement and Logistics Department for seven years, says she has grown in confidence and character since joining the company.

“The greatest thing is that I received my Grade 12 certificate, as well as my Higher Certificate in Logistics Management through the company’s development programme. I knew nothing about this industry when I joined the company, but through the training and courses I have attended, I am proud that I am able to work independently and with confidence in the shipping industry.”

Being tough but fair

Mandume, working in carpentry, emphasises the value of people skills and team work. “As a woman you have to be hard when it comes to solving a problem, but soft when it comes to people. You need to trust your team, ensure that everyone plays a role, and do not be a dictator – this is the way to build a team.”

Communication skills have also paid off for Delila Dausas, an Office Assistant in the Finance Department. “A customer focus is so important in this industry. It can be a challenging environment, but it is important to just be yourself. Real talent will rise to the top, male or female.”

With the right ‘can-do’ attitude and an eye for opportunity, women will continue to enjoy fulfilling careers in the shipping and marine industry.

Inspiring the next generation of women leaders

“Women in responsible positions in both the maritime and other sectors must remember that they are the voice for all women in this country,” says Katjivari. “We can work in any industry, and I would like to see more women in top positions. We need to understand the power of women and how important it is to grab every opportunity with both hands.”

As long as the employee is physically and mentally capable of performing a job, gender should have nothing to do with opportunity, says Hannes Uys.

“We believe that our drive for equal opportunities and the value we place on training and skills development makes EBH Namibia an employer of choice. It is gratifying that more and more women are joining the maritime industry in a variety of roles. I believe the scope for a rewarding career path for women is growing all the time, “he comments.

“There are no specific barriers for women entering the maritime industry, says Damens. “It’s all about confidence. My advice to other women is: be yourself, do what you do best and stand firm in your beliefs,” she concludes.
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