|Women in the Shipping Industry: Setting Sail for Gender Empowerment with EBH Namibia
|12 August 2013
Gone are the days when, in an industry such as shipping, men are working on the docks while women are tapping away on typewriters in administrative offices.
While it is still true that in Namibia, women generally tend to be over-represented in clerical, service and administrative occupations, the gender distinctions within the country’s labour force are, happily, fading fast.
This is the view of Hannes Uys, Chief Executive Officer of ship repair company Elgin Brown & Hamer (EBH) Namibia, which has seen more and more women being represented in the shipping industry, historically a very male-dominated environment.
Uys notes, however, that this trend is not limited to the shipping industry, but it is true of many industrially-driven organisations which are seeking to increase diversity in their workforce.
“Times have changed, and especially in globally competitive industries, where world-class standards have to consistently be achieved - such as in shipping - the skills of each and every individual, regardless of gender, have to be nurtured and maximised.
In this way, we believe that EBH Namibia has made significant headway when it comes to setting the trend in empowering women, bridging the gender gap on many levels,” he maintains.
When it comes to recruitment, EBH Namibia firmly upholds fair labour practices, which include training and employing female tradespersons to advance in the otherwise male-dominated engineering disciplines within the marine industry.
“We support the advancement of women and actively promote non-discriminatory recruitment practices. Ultimately, our recruitment process is structured to attract candidates who have the necessary potential and qualities to fulfil the particular requirements of a job, irrespective of race, religion, gender, political conviction, sexual orientation or disabilities.”
Therefore, at EBH Namibia, it is common to see women doing welding, carpentry and electrical tasks. The company currently employs 8 female welders, 4 female carpenters and 2 female electricians.
“It is a general sentiment at EBH Namibia that, if you are interested in applying for a job that you are physically and mentally capable of performing, gender should have nothing to do with your entry into the field,” Uys asserts.
The women at EBH Namibia bear testimony to this, and attest to having experienced no issues working alongside their male counterparts.
Elizabeth Mandume, Supervisor: Carpentry, who has been with the company since 2004, says: “I enjoy my work as a carpenter, and the fact that we enjoy gender equality at EBH. The men have no problem working with us, and there is very good communication. In fact, the men share their trade secrets with us and help us to successfully complete projects as a team.”
“Helena Veiko, Chargehand: Electrical, has had a similarly positive experience: “I would not change my profession if given a second chance. I am a mother, wife and qualified electrician. My promotion was based on the quality of my work and my qualifications.”
Training is a fundamental part of the corporate culture at EBH Namibia, and again, initiatives are not gender-specific, but rather skills-orientated. “All our employees are encouraged to update their skills on a regular basis in order to align their abilities to international standards,” comments Uys.
EBH Namibia was recently partially acquired by the DCD Group, becoming a part of the DCD Marine cluster along with sister company EBH South Africa and DCD Marine Cape Town. In partnership with its major shareholder, NAMPORT, EBH Namibia provides the international shipping industry with a full in-house service in all aspects of ship repair. EBH Namibia recently took delivery of a third Panamax floating dock, further boosting the company’s position as a serious global player in the marine and shipping industry.
“EBH Namibia has had some exciting developments lately, such as our increase in docking capacity. We believe that our world-class facilities, solid reputation and emphasis on training and personal development make us an employer of choice. It is gratifying that more and more women are joining the shipping industry and I believe the scope for a rewarding career path for women is growing all the time,” Uys concludes.