Influential woman in shipping and trailblazer for diversity Sanjam Sahi Gupta talks about the thorny issue of gender representation in Episode 2 of Nautilus podcast series Off Course: a sideways look at life at sea.
Mrs Gupta is director of Sitara Shipping; founder of the Women's International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) India and CEO of Maritime SheEO (an organisation dedicated to increasing diversity within the maritime industry).
Common research in maritime shows there is still a tiny percentage of women working at sea – somewhere between two and three percent, depending on which part of the industry is under scrutiny.
In the podcast, Mrs Gupta talks inspiringly and with humour about her often difficult experiences and motivations as one of the few women at a senior level in the industry, and how these challenges have informed her campaigning work in making not simply the moral case but – crucially – the business case for diversity.
Mrs Gupta admits that although she was born into a traditional patriarchal society, she was lucky to have supportive parents who believed in education and instilled a belief that their daughters could do anything they wanted to.
'You need to make the change, it does not matter if you have the resources or not, you have a voice, use that voice, and I think that is exactly what I have taken very seriously,' she says.
Mrs Gupta's story may resonate with a wide variety of women working in maritime and other industries; she covers the lack of belief she encountered from colleagues that women will be dedicated to a formal working environment, and the treatments she endured even in a family-owned business.
She constantly pushed back against those assumptions over two decades to show what 'the new normal' could look like for a diverse sector. She took her son to work, to meetings and conferences, for example, to show that 'woman have babies, and even though people might have been appalled to see a baby in the room they eventually knew that, no, Sanjam has a baby, and in the end, I think the onus is on us to create these new norms'.
The new podcast series aims to address some of the public's misconceptions of seafaring careers by covering interesting maritime stories. Countering sea-blindness is also one of the twin pillars of the Union's campaigning for an equitable transition for seafarers during decarbonisation of the maritime industry.
- find out Mrs Gupta's top tips for those entering the maritime industry: listen (and share!) the Nautilus podcast Off course series, Episode 2
- read the Maritime Barometer – the results of a Nautilus study of 2,000 members of the British public showing how little a maritime nation now knows about the industry