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Where are all the women in seafood?
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Elisabeth Fischer  from INTRAFISH
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Today we're launching a ground-breaking new series highlighting the most talented female executives in the seafood business.
One of the real benefits of being a reporter is that you have a voice. And as a publishing company, IntraFish has a platform from which to speak. This means we can put the most important issues facing the seafood sector on the agenda, and spark discussion and debate.
Few issues are more pressing right now than attracting talent to this sector. So why, we wondered, is the industry so terrible at attracting 50 percent of the workforce?
According to a recently released FAO report, only one out of the 100 biggest seafood companies has a female CEO.
Out of the 100 companies surveyed for the study, there are six female directors in Norway (33 percent), two in Denmark (27 percent), two in Canada (14 percent) and three each in China (13 percent), Iceland (7 percent), Thailand (5 percent) and the United States (5 percent). In France, two companies had female directors (5 percent), in Japan, 26 directors were women (2 percent), while Chile boasted four (2 percent).
“Women occupying high management positions in the seafood industries and services are very rare,” the FAO report stated. “This is not a question of qualifications or achievements, but the result of invisible barriers. This restriction of women’s career advancement, called the ‘glass ceiling,’ is not specific to the seafood industry (neither to women), but is particularly acute here.”
The vast majority of the estimated 56 million women who work in the seafood industry occupy processing, support, retail and cleaning roles. But there are significant barriers preventing women from advancing to management and decision-making roles.
So what are the barriers?
I asked the FAO report’s author, Marie Christine Monfort, but she doesn't have a definite answer. “Maybe the industry is not hospitable to women … maybe it’s not an attractive industry to women,” she told me. “Either the industry doesn't want women or women don’t want the industry.”
Of course, underrepresentation of women in executive roles is not news.
A recent, very inspiring, article in The Economist titled “The weaker sex” – referring to men not women – cited Forbes figures from March 2015 showing 95.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are male, as are 98 percent of the self-made billionaires on the Forbes rich list, and 93 percent of the world’s heads of government.
So, it’s a global issue. But seafood is at the bottom, and “even worse than the petrol, forestry and construction industry,” Monfort said.
I was curious to find out more about the few female executives in this particular industry. How did they succeed? Why did they choose this particular industry? For several weeks now I have been talking to women across the globe who “made it to the top,” asking them questions about their individual professional paths, the challenges and hurdles they've faced, but also what advice they would give aspiring female seafood executives.
The result: A series of highly interesting, diverse, honest, and at times touching Q&As that I’m going to share with you over the next weeks.
What are we hoping to achieve with it? We want to give the women of this industry a platform to showcase their talent, their stories and we hope to maybe spark some rethinking. To say it with Monfort’s words, I don’t believe “things will change dramatically” with this series or one single report. But I guess we both hope to perhaps ignite some rethinking, just by showing that “women are not there” in seafood’s management and board rooms.
The industry will lose out if it fails to seek out and hire talented women and leverage the know-how and competence today’s female executives bring with them. While there is no tailored recipe for attracting female executives into the industry, realizing the potential of this pool of talent for the sector is the first step toward change. But the current structure “is designed for men by men,” as Monfort told me, and I agree.
So, look for the Q&As, and I strongly suggest you to read them -- the insights we've gathered offer a road map for a better industry.
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