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Strome College of Business

Latinx Symposium at ODU includes the topic of empowering women in maritime and supply chain industry

A few weeks ago, the ODU Maritime, Ports and Logistics Institute partnered with the Office of Intercultural Relations (OIR) to bring the topic of women in the maritime and supply chain industry to the Latinx Symposium held in the Webb Center.

The symposium included a panel to discuss the challenge of increasing the participation of women in maritime and supply chain and how mentorship could help close the gap. The panel was composed of Ashley Reese, Crew & Tug Operations Manager at Great Lakes Dredge & Dock; Captain Alexandra Hagerty, Captain aboard the Hospital Ship Africa Mercy; and Sofia Oliver, Senior Site Administrator at Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company. Dr. Ricardo Ungo, Director of the Maritime, Ports and Logistics Institute, was the moderator of this panel.

"I was very happy to participate in this panel and provide advice to female students looking for a start in this industry", said Ashley Reese, one of the panelists, who is a Strome alumna. Reese has worked in various maritime industry segments over her 15-year career to include coastal and inland tug-barge, marine construction, shipyard and fabrication, and dredging.

Another industry panelist, Captain Hagerty was named Top 20 Women of 2020 by Marine Log Magazine and enjoys mentoring and inspiring young people to be a part of the maritime sector. Similarly, Sofia Oliver has 6 years of experience working in the on-site field office locations for domestic dredging projects specializing in project management coordination, logistics and procurement. She is currently in the process of becoming a Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP).

"This panel within the Latinx Symposium was a great opportunity to discuss with students the challenges of empowering women to grow and strive in the maritime and supply chain careers," said Ricardo Ungo, Director of the Maritime, Ports and Logistics Institute. "We were very interested in adding this topic to the Latinx Symposium, as we are broadening the students' perspectives," said Jose Ramos, Associate Director of the Office of Intercultural Relations. OIR is starting a comprehensive program for Latinx student advisory board. The board will consist of an independent group that meets to discuss to opportunities and resources for students on campus, determine areas that are lacking, and investigate students' areas of interest. After that is established, Hispanic Latino Employee Association - consisting of faculty and graduate students will convene with the intention of peer mentoring and establishing a Hispanic alumni association. The hope is that this will serve as a vital resource to mentor and advise students of incredible campus programs such as the maritime and supply chain institute and the many benefits it has to offer.

Awareness about opportunities in the maritime and supply chain industry and resources available to capitalize on them are just a couple of obstacles for participation of women in the maritime industry. Many students, including international students, simply are not aware of the opportunities.

The panelists noted that the maritime industry was male dominated with very few women employed in the industry. Captain Hagerty noted that "American Maritime Officers (AMO) is the largest union of U.S. merchant marine officers working aboard U.S.-flagged merchant and military sealift vessels and consists of mostly men. As a result, men are promoted much faster due to their network and women traditionally have to take low paying jobs to get more experience and work their way up."

"Women need to be in these spaces for diversity and perspective. We are the supply chain of our homes. We are the people who provide resources to our family, culturally as women it's something that we already do daily. But we may not look in this industry because it is so heavily male dominated," says Ana Williams, Associate Director for Intercultural Initiatives.

However, Captain Hagerty says women shouldn't get discouraged. There are more women in management than ever. During her time as captain of the Africa Mercy she promoted two women to leadership under her command. She mentioned that internationally women in leadership were embraced. Although, she's had positive experiences as a captain on US vessels as well. In fact, a former captain, under Captain Hagerty praised her for her strong but thoughtful leadership after she thoughtfully threw him a retirement party. Although he has retired, he continues to serve as a supportive mentor to Captain Hagerty.

In addition to mentorship, Captain Hagerty believes that getting more young people involved in Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA), AMO events and union meetings, as well as spreading the word about resources in the maritime newspaper could create change. In her opinion, individuals entering the industry should join organizations such as the Nautical Institute, US Propeller Club, and The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME).

Speaking about women in maritime Captain Hagerty say, "If you have grit and integrity and you're willing to work hard, you can do anything."

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