Danish shipping against sexual harassment

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tttAlmost 80% of all women working on Danish ships have been subjected to sexual harassment at some time during their maritime career. That was shown by a survey from 2015. The industry is now getting together to come to grips with the problem.

Just like in Sweden, the shipping industry in Denmark has noted problems with sexual harassment on board. According to a survey supported by SAN’s sister organisation in Denmark, Seahealth, 37% of Danish women who work at sea have been subjected to sexual harassment during the past year. As many as 78% of respondents said that they had been harassed at some time during their maritime career. In the majority of cases they had been harassed by a colleague, but the list of guilty parties included officers, pilots and port staff. Connie Gehrt is CEO of Seahealth.

”We had a suspicion that this could be a problem, but when we tried to take up the topic at conferences, it was difficult to find anyone from the industry who was willing to talk about it. Now we have proof that harassment is going on, which makes it easier to take up the subject,” she says.

Harassment reported in the survey includes everything from comments and sexual jokes to physical molesting. Women’s reactions to harassment varies, but one thing that many of them think is particularly hard to accept is when their skills are undervalued on the basis of their gender. At the same time, the study shows that very few cases of harassment are reported and that the majority of the victims keep it to themselves.

”Most of them don’t say anything, neither to their colleagues, managers or at home. It is almost as if women feel that this is something we must accept if we want to work at sea,” says Connie Gehrt, and continues.

”But it is creating problems in several ways, both for individuals and for the industry as a whole. If we want to recruit young women in shipping, we must also be able to take care of them.”

Connie Gehrt says that insults and harassment can be difficult to deal with, but she is still optimistic. After the study, people no longer turn a blind eye to the problems, and she says that there is a determination to change the situation from all sides. In the middle of March, ship-owners and the unions are going to hold a meeting with a psychologist at Seahealth to discuss actions to be taken.

”I think that this can lead to positive change, but exactly what will be done remains to be seen. There is already quite a lot of material on this subject, and it is maybe more important to spread what is already available rather than producing new materials.”

Connie Gehrt says that they also hope to find funding for a study relating to job satisfaction and relationships on board in a broader perspective.

”How we treat and respect each other is not only about women – it concerns everyone, regardless of gender, culture or nationality.”

Linda Sundgren

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