Brussels.- When they first mentioned setting up this event, Julie Ferguson-Ceniti, Trade Commissioner Canadian Mission to the EU and Marie Christine Monfort, co-founder and president of the International Organization for Women in the Seafood Industry (WSI) expected 50 attendees. A total of 170 persons registered to this very first and much awaited meeting.
“What Government and the Private Sector Can do to Support the Inclusion and Advancement of Women in the Seafood Industry?” was the topic. “Ultimately we can talk about gender equality, this is a smart thing to do, but concretely what can we do about it?” introduced Daniel J. Costello, Ambassador, Mission of Canada to the European Union.
Laurel Broten, President and CEO Nova Scotia Business Inc, sees the opportunity. “Currently there are very few women in leadership roles heading large fishing companies, industrial fishing operations or participating on Boards of Directors. Men still hold 99% of CEO positions and approximately 90% of board positions and heads of professional organizations. The good news is the industry has examples of leadership taking purposeful action, which as I know through my own experience, can change the trajectory of someone’s life.”
Laura Halfyard, General Manager Sunrise Fish Farms added: “The top barriers for women to access leadership levels as revealed through a recent survey are the lack of balance carrier-family policies, the old boys’ club attitudes and the lack of role models. She revealed the results of a recent survey: 41% women confirmed that females meet barriers to their carriers advan
cement; a diagnosis share by only 12% of men. It’s the men who need to get the message.” The urgence for a shared diagnosis between men and women was one of the key conclusion of the WSI survey Putting Gender Equality on the Seafood Industry’s Agenda: Results of a Global Survey July 2018″.
Ian D. Smith, CEO Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership, partner of WSI got it clearly. “We want to win and we are not going to win unless we address diversity, in particular gender diversity. Stands are clear: diversity brings vision, strengthen capabilities, enhance innovation, drives customers’ innovation and boost our brand reputation. How do we address this? We have a clear policy and importantly we have developed metrics. We measure how we recruit, how we train, how we make succession planning, how we compensate. To make sure this happens required the mind-set of the leader. During my time at Clearwater Seafood and Mc Duff shellfish we have seen an increase with women in various positions across the company. Two of nine of our Board of Directors are female. Three of eight of our Executive team are female. At Clearwater we continue to support the removal of systemic barriers to employment and the advancement of women in occupations or positions where they are under-represented.”
Christina Burridge, Executive Director British Columbia Seafood Alliance, insisted on the importance of mentorship. “I don’t think I would have survived in the business if I haven’t met an important women in this industry (Eve Purdew, largest wild salmon importer in the 80ies) who accepted to open her contact books to me.”
Mary Larkin, president of Diversified Communications pursued with her own experience “My head still has bruises from hitting the glass ceiling,” and asked a few questions to Marie Christine Monfort.
Larkin asked Monfort whether she had felt a shift in how the women’s equity movement has been received since WSI’s founding. “Some men have shown their willingness to change and turn their company into a more socially progressive place, such as Ian from Clearwater but we are far from total acceptance. It’s hard to get men into the discussion”. On the positive side, Tesa Diaz-Faes Santiago, Director of Communications for Grupo Nueva Pescanova, presented the situation at Pescanova where a Women In Seafood group was recently created to promote women to responsible positions.
Monfort concluded: “I’m optimistic when I see the room full of attendees whose presence could bring new mind-set to their organisations in order to start thinking and acting for gender equality. Though I can’t say tide has turned yet. But we are working on it and this massively attended event organised with the help of the Canadian authorities and Diversified Communication shows the need for improving working environment for women in the seafood industry.”
WSI hopes to see another country taking the lead and organising a second edition of this event next year during GLOBAL SEAFOOD EXPO 2020.