Gender equality in aquaculture: why is important

Gender equality in aquaculture: why is important

As in any other sector, we can all agree that gender equality only brings wealth and prosperity to all agents. It has been a long journey and it is still necessary. Although prudently we can say that the world mentality has begun to change.

It is beginning to be an almost popular belief that the prosperity of humanity is only possible if we have the presence of women in all aspects of professional life.

Also in aquaculture, more women are graduating and specializing in this sector. Women are starting to get more qualified jobs. Besides, we can almost glimpse full parity at the end of the tunnel.

Even so, women in aquaculture still find it difficult to participate in large-scale aquaculture production, post-harvest industrial, and value-addition processes. Positions of owners, managers, and executives in larger enterprises should have more women presence.

Improving little by little

We should remember that, according to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture published in 2016 by FAO, "in the period 2005–2014, the quality and frequency of reporting on engagement by gender improved slowly. It is estimated that, overall, women accounted for more than 19% of all people directly engaged in the fisheries and aquaculture primary sector in 2014".

For all these reasons, we have asked two women who are leading the way in this regard, for their opinion on the actual scenario and how they look up to the near future.

"The statistics are disappointing, but not surprising. I hope that the period from 2014 to date shows a more positive outlook for women joining this sector," Ashleigh Currie, Business Development Manager and Fish Health R&D at FiiZK, says. "The responsibility falls on the companies. Employing directly into the sector and in early education. Also, implementing careers advisory programs and internships/apprenticeships to detail the range of positions available within this sector."

Ashleigh, holding a salmon in a fish farm.

Moreover, Julie Elise Trovaag, who enjoys a position as a trainee at BioMar, thinks is good the improvement of the gender gap. "However, is still far from the equality that we should aim to reach," she states.

About the reason why women's participation in aquaculture and fisheries is often not so visible, Currie notes: "I believe that there may have been a culture that pertains to the fact that women cannot do manual, cage-side work. Also, there isn't flexibility when it comes to raising a family. Unfortunately, this is still very much perceived as a woman's job". "However, I know lots of women working in the sector. But possibly not in as many senior roles. "That's where attention is required to investigate how we encourage women to go for the top jobs," she advises.

Common challenges

It is always worth knowing which has been the biggest challenge women usually face in this sector. Thereby, we can learn and act accordingly in future situations. Regarding this, Currie mentions that sometimes older men who had been working in the industry for a long time do not take into account the visibility of young women.

"Fortunately, in my experience, it didn't happen often. But when it did, it highlighted how much more women need to fight to be treated as an equal. On a positive note, many more males pushed for me to succeed. So, I must highlight that in my case the prejudice that I experienced was minor", she recognizes.

Further, Trovaag adds: "So far, I have had a warm welcome as a woman in the seafood industry. However, I have heard about situations where women have experienced prejudices related to physical work. So, there is still a way to go."

Julie at BioMar's feed plant at Myre, Norway – Frode Gabrielsen

Currie thinks the best way is by talking about their experiences and being part of mentoring programs. "Such as the one run by WiSA, which I was involved in as a mentor in 2020 and educational visits". She continues: "A couple of years ago, I visited my nephew's primary school. I spoke to the children about my career as a marine biologist in the fish farming industry. These types of activities are vital to encourage all individuals. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or social background, sexual orientation or education consider this sector as a career choice."

In the same line, Julie encourages young women like her to benefit from an industry that gives "exciting job opportunities and experiences".

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