Breakbulk Joins Forces with EU Maritime Women Project

Working together for a more equitable future

Breakbulk Events & Media is the first partner to join the EU Maritime Women Project, a research campaign created by the European Community Shipowners’ Association and the European Transport Workers’ Federation, to get more women participating in the European maritime industry. The project is also supported by WISTA, the Women's International Shipping & Trading Association, an organization that has partnered with Breakbulk on its Women in Breakbulk initiative. Further, the EU Maritime Women Project is the official supporter for Breakbulk’s Women in Breakbulk program. Here, Breakbulk talks with two of the EU Maritime Women Project directors, Dr. Kate Pike and Sue Terpilowski, OBE, to find out more about the project.

BB: What’s the project all about?

Sue: The EU Maritime Women Project, run by ESCA and the ETF, will promote women in maritime within the Union.

There is a sound business case for greater gender diversity in all industries, and it has specific benefits for companies. In the McKinsey Report, “Why Diversity Matters” in the UK, greater gender diversity of the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in their data set: For every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5 percent.

McKinsey’s further recent research into more than 1000 companies across 12 countries found the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to enjoy above-average profitability, than those in the bottom quartile.

Using research measures that will enhance the recruitment and retention of women within the industry, a promotion campaign will be developed to showcase good practice in this area. We will be focusing on measures such as ensuring the provision of female-friendly facilities on board ships, promoting shipboard cultures that support the dignity of all crew members and communicating about long-term career opportunities at sea and onshore. Gender policies in the workplace, including policies on work-life balance, as well as measures to prevent and eradicate bullying and harassment based on the joint industry guidelines and training materials, will be developed.

BB: Dr. Kate Pike is an associate professor and senior research fellow at Solent University and will lead the research phase. How will the research phase be rolled out?

Kate: Data for the project will be collected in several ways. Initially, through a desktop study, a review of published literature will examine the key issues associated with the recruitment and retention of women within the industry. The findings will be further validated by targeted maritime stakeholder interviews with subject experts.

The exploration of this topic will then go a step further, with the facilitation of focus groups with women from the industry, Europe-wide, to discuss and debate key topics raised by the literature review and interviews. This will provide greater depth of information and broaden the debate in the area of policy covering gender and women’s rights in maritime as well as drawing further on best practice that is being undertaken onshore and onboard.

BB: There are lots of different projects and initiatives that are promoting greater diversity in our industry. How does the EU Maritime Women Project fit into this picture?

Sue: From the outset we see our work as one of collaboration and building on the initiatives that have set the groundwork for greater diversity in the workplace. This will undoubtedly result in an increased awareness and drive to achieve our mutual goal of increasing gender diversity. We are very keen to hear from anyone that wishes to collaborate with us or pass on their findings, knowledge to us so that we can enhance each other’s work. No suggestions or comments related to diversity in the workplace will be dismissed—we need to know what the industry feels and why.

BB: This campaign will hopefully encourage a new generation of young people to join the maritime industry. What advice do you have for those starting out in the maritime, logistics and project cargo industry?

Kate: Whatever role you take on, try and find yourself a mentor and someone experienced that you can turn to for help and advice. Always do your best but speak up if you think things are not right. Communication is so important. Your opinion matters and you can make a difference to yourself and to other women that want to follow in your footsteps. 

Sue: Just do it! The hesitancy that some women feel about the industry is probably historic or based on outdated views of the work. In reality, there are few industries like the maritime/logistics sectors that offer such diverse opportunities. It is a global industry and open to any women that want an exciting, challenging and rewarding career. 

My key advice to women is to follow your heart as well as your head. It requires commitment and dedication, just as with most other career paths and there are so many employers in the industry that are looking for employees with the right mindset and skills, regardless of gender. As a key advocate of the 100 percent, how does anyone know they have the best person if they only attract 50 percent of population, i.e., males? We will not achieve this if women do not apply.

BB: Where can readers find out more about this project, and how can people support it?

We have launched a dedicated website: where we will regularly update our progress, post polls along with mini-surveys and relevant blog posts. We are also on social media with a Facebook group, a dedicated LinkedIn company page and on Twitter @EuMaritime.

About Breakbulk’s partnership with the EU Maritime Women Project

There are clear synergies with Breakbulk's Women in Breakbulk initiative and the EU Maritime Women Project. As a key connector between the industry and women, Breakbulk sees its involvement in the project as one way to encourage its female industry members to participate in this groundbreaking project so that their experienced voices are heard.

Women in Breakbulk has been one of Breakbulk’s key global themes for the past few years and we are building a strong community across the world. Women in Breakbulk provides a forum for sharing experiences, networking and encouraging women to make their career in the industry. Through Breakbulk live and digital events, Breakbulk magazine and BreakbulkONE newsletter women can celebrate success and share lessons learned. To join Women in Breakbulk, visit

Project Directors’ Career Paths

Dr. Kate Pike
My journey into maritime, like many others, was not something that I deliberately set out to do. I had started work as a volunteer at the Hamble Harbour Masters, driving their patrol boats and helping the environmental officer. From there I was offered a research assistant’s role at Solent University following a stake holders meeting! I soon found the maritime industry to be deeply engaging and there were many issues close to my heart including, gender equality, leadership and seafarer’s well-being and the role that this important industry plays in globalisation to bring us everything we need. Over my 17 year career at Solent University I learnt so much from the many maritime networks that define the industry and gained extensive experience from the maritime human element research projects that I led. I became genuinely interested in the minority groups that work in shipping, in particular the women within our industry, and feel very excited about this current project opportunity to further promote the role that women can play within the industry. 

Sue Terpilowski, OBE
My experience in maritime and ports marketing and public relations has encompassed breakbulk over the past 32 years. It is a sector I understand and my role as Managing Director of Image Line Communications has enabled me to understand and appreciate the importance of breakbulk operations. It is a sector that has a unique story and we have been delighted to have helped companies to tell their stories and give thought leadership on key issues. As one of a few agencies that work with shipping lines, forwarders and ports we understand all the different elements that are involved in the breakbulk sector. Over the last few years, I have been a speaker at events highlighting the benefits of gender diversity and better engagement with the younger generation to encourage them to seek employment in the sector.

Sue most recently presented at Women in Breakbulk, part of the Middle East Digital Special