Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Navy woman first-time voter in 1918. Helen Beale's story

Helen Beale, centre

Helen Beale (1885-1972) was one of the Royal Navy women allowed the vote for the first time in 1918. This important figure in Women's Royal Naval Service history was over 30, therefore she was eligible to have her civic say.
A hundred years ago this month it was an exciting time for her. Helen enrolled into the brand new WRNS on 28 January 1918, age 32. She was one of the first tranche; it had only just begun.
Then, only nine days later, she got the vote, along with possibly a thousand other Wrens.

Many Wrens did not qualify because they were were too young,or not property holders or graduates.
For example, Vera Laughton Mathews (pictured right), a WW1 counterpart of Miss Beale, was a suffragette.
Vera became Director WRNS in WW2 and remembered that 'when the first limited measure of franchise to women was passed on February 6th, 1918, I was extremely annoyed to find myself excluded,'(Blue Tapestry, p29).
Age 29, Vera was just seven months too young, having been born on 25 September 1888. Also she did not have the requisite property qualification, nor a degree.
Vera, like most women, had to wait until the 1928 Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act was passed.

The letter (pictured above) about Miss Beale's status as voter is part of the new National Trust exhibition about her.
The exhibition is on display at her family home of Standen, near East Grinstead in West Sussex.

Helen (pictured right) is significant in the story of women's naval life because not only was she Divisional Director at Devonport, and therefore one of the nations' six regional on-the-spot organisers of the WRNS.
(She attained the post just seven days before the Armistice, 4 November 1918 and carrying on until the very last: 11 November 1919.)
Miss Beale was also one of the very best writers in the entire service.
Her records, and her letters to WRNS Director Dame Katharine Furse (pictured left, below) are vivid and invaluable evidence about the teething problems of being a women's auxiliary service. The WRNS was hurriedly created mid war and worked round the traditional, male and sometimes misogynist permanent service.
Helen and Katharine had been together in the VAD before the WRNS began. This shared history, and having transitioned to the WRNS together, enabled them to write very frankly to each other.
They may also have felt a subtler affinity too, as they both shared the same tall, angular body type and authoritative style.

The exhibition, Helen Beale - Never at Sea, opens on Saturday 28 April and continues until Sunday 11 Nov 2018.

~ Helen Beale's file can be digitally viewed via the National Archives (TNA ADM 318/21) if you pay £3.50.
~ Her letters and reports can be seen at the archive of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Modern women in maritime industry: UNCTAD report's revelations

The Review of Maritime Transport 2017 reveals the outcomes of two online surveys in 2014-15 and two focus groups in Cebu with Filipina cruise ship workers. Published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD) International Business the report is available in full, free via:

This is a new report, with a sub-chapter on gender issues which includes information on the position of women in the maritime industry, world wide. I've extracted the key parts and reprinted them below. I've inserted my own paragraph breaks, topic headings and graphics in the report here, to enable easier reading. (That's why the lines are of uneven length.)

Part of Introduction, re onshore jobs:

'The shipping business – both offshore and onshore –
is traditionally a male-dominated sector. At sea, 1 per
cent of seafarers are women. Onshore, women hold
55 per cent of global maritime junior-level positions,
compared with 9 per cent of executive-level positions.

By promoting the employment of women, maritime
businesses may not only help overcome shortages in
labour supply, but may also contribute to achieving key
Sustainable Development Goals.' [p11]

Gender issues: Assessing gender aspects in shipping. pp.36-37


In shipping, men make up the majority of the workforce.
In 2015, out of the estimated 1,647,500 seafarers in
marine operation roles employed in the global merchant
fleet, about 16,500 seafarers, or 1 per cent, were women
(Baltic and International Maritime Council, 2015).

In particular, 0.4  per cent of ratings and rating trainees,
0.7  per cent of officers and 6.9  per cent of officer
trainees were women. The latter number suggests a
likely increase in the number of women seafarers.

A survey conducted in 2016 by the Maritime HR
Association indicates that the share of women in global
onshore maritime employment strongly depends on the
level of hierarchy.

The share is largest in administrative
positions (74 per cent of the provided data) and balanced
in junior positions (55 per cent).

The share decreases with regard to senior positions: Women occupy
37 per cent of professional-level positions and 17 per cent of
manager-level positions. At the director level, 12  per
cent of positions are filled by women, compared with
9 per cent at the executive level.

Women were most likely to be found in corporate support
roles such as in human resources and finance. They
were least likely to hold positions in ship management
(9 per cent) (HR Consulting, 2016).

A similar trend can be seen in national shipowner associations. For example,
the International Chamber of Shipping found that only
6  per cent of national board members were women,
30 per cent at director or policymaking level and 86 per
cent at support level (Orsel and Vaughan, 2015).

Combined with other factors, the lack of women in
senior positions translates into a gender pay gap. While
no global data are available, in the United Kingdom,
there is a national average gender pay gap of 19 per

In comparison, the difference between the mean
hourly rate of men and women employees in the
maritime sector is significantly higher and translates to
39 per cent across the 26,000 employees covered by a
survey of the Maritime HR Association (HR Consulting,2017).

When comparing pay by gender within job
levels, the pay gap was at 8 per cent at the junior or
professional level, increasing with seniority (Spinnaker
Global, 2017).
Another dimension to be considered in this area are
health-related issues. Owing to concerns that medical
handbooks aimed at women seafarers might not take
a gendered approach to health or might be outdated,
the International Maritime Health Association and its
partners conducted a survey on the health and welfare
needs of women seafarers.

According to the survey,the main health challenges were joint and back pain
(particularly on passenger ships in catering and room
services, less so on cargo ships), stress, depression,
anxiety, obesity and heavy or painful menstrual periods.

Some 55 per cent of the respondents linked their health
problems to working conditions. About 40  per cent
did not have access to a sanitary bin and 17 per cent
considered sexual harassment to be a current challenge.

In an earlier pilot survey when the question was not
restricted to current experiences, 50  per cent stated
that sexual harassment was a problem (International
Maritime Health Association et al., 2015). [ends page 36]

Based on a shortage in the supply of officers and the need to
guarantee equal opportunity for all genders, Governments
and industry should take measures to facilitate the uptake
of women in shipping, ensure equal pay and improve
retention rates.

It is expected that the estimated shortage
of 16,500 officers in 2015 will grow to 147,500 by 2025
(Baltic and International Maritime Council, 2015).


~ Public and private sector initiatives can include targeted recruitment,
support for employees with caring responsibilities (such
as work arrangements to switch between vessel-based
and shore-based positions), unconscious bias awareness
training, mentoring, internal networks, talent pipelines and
consistency in salary decisions (HR Consulting, 2017).

~ Given the scarce data available on the topic, further
research should be conducted to tailor instruments to
the needs as fittingly as possible (Women’s International
Shipping and Trading Association, 2015). Organizations
working on the issue should exchange information and
collaborate to use resources as effectively as possible and
raise awareness in industry and politics.

~ To improve the working and living conditions of women
aboard shipping vessels, simple and low-cost interventions
can help substantially. The production and distribution of
gender-specific information on the aforementioned health
problems can support their mitigation.

~ A diversity charter signed by shipping companies and seafarer organizations
can support the change of corporate cultures. Prevention
and investigation of cases of sexual harassment and
bullying aboard should be standard policy.

~ Solutions for the disposal of sanitary waste on all ships and availability of
women-specific products in port shops and welfare centres
should be ensured (ILO, 2016; International Maritime
Health Association et al., 2015; Orsel and Vaughan, 2015).

~ Furthermore, gender-blind measures such as rejoining and
long-service incentives, an open-door policy in company
culture, better accommodation aboard and facilitated
communication between seafarers and their families
can help improve retention rates (Women’s International
Shipping and Trading Association, 2015).'[ends p37, and ends this section of women.]

The above report also ties in with a report, Women Seafarers’ Health and Welfare Survey. This 22-page report with useful coloured charts is a joint initiative of the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA), International Seafarers’ Welfareand Assistance Network (ISWAN),International Transport Workers’Federation (ITF) and Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS)