“Stay focused on your goal,” COO Starzs Investment Coy tells girls aspiring for maritime careers
Young and vibrant Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Starzs Investment Company Ltd., Iroghama Ogbeifun-Obuoforibo, has advised young women who are desirous of taking up jobs and pursuing careers in the maritime industry to stay focused on whatever goals they have in mind.
Obuoforibo, who is also the Chairman, Finance& Membership Committee, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), talks on the very many opportunities women could be opened to in the maritime industry if they pursue their dream committedly and ensure that they get requisite training. She also believes that team platforms including Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA), Women In Maritime Africa (WIMA), Women in Logistics and Transport(WiLAT) and several others will do a lot in helping young women shape their path in a career in the maritime industry.In this interview, as the 2019 ‘Day of the Seafarer’ being celebrated today focuses on empowering women in the maritime industry, Iroghama shares more, with particular reference to the dangers of stereotyping women’s role in the work environment and how it had caused quite a number of women to abandon their careers for ‘home-front’ demands.
What are the opportunities like for women in maritime in Nigeria?
There are various opportunities available from serving on board vessels as an officer to being a surveyor with any of the class societies, to being a trainer at a training institute, to being a HSE professional, being an executive in a maritime organisation. I believe that the important thing is being properly trained and developing the relevant competencies to qualify for these opportunities.
How well have the women keyed into the available opportunities? Importantly too, what obvious or seeming challenges are they faced with?
I believe some women have had the “balls” to seize the available opportunities despite the mounting obstacles against them. For example, many ships do not have the bed space to accommodate female seafarers as they will lose the extra bathing spaces they have, since a woman will require her privacy on board. Most vessel owners will rather not deal with this inconvenience, but it is an intentional sacrifice that must be made to give equal opportunities. Being a female executive in a top-ranking maritime logistics company, I am particularly pro-female participation in the seafaring trade and as such we have empowered over 6 female seafarers through our cadetship program, some of whom have gone on to become officers and others who chose to work from the office. We currently have a female second engineer who has been with us since her cadetship training, and 2 female cadets serving onboard our fleet. I find that society’s demand and stereotype of the role of women in our environment causes most of these potentially high-flying female seafarers to abandon their careers along the way for the call of marital/motherhood duties. I believe that it will be worthwhile if women who choose this path are given more support both in their communities and within organizations by way of charting a career path that take into consideration these long term family plans and unconditional support. For participation in other aspects of the industry, women need to educate themselves about the various career paths and not be deterred by the male dominance that is apparent. We have to be as committed, dedicated and dogged just as much as our male counterparts. We cannot request for gender parity on one end and female consideration on the other.
How remarkable will it be, if necessary, for women to use team platforms to further establish their presence and impact in the maritime industry in Nigeria?
It will be absolutely remarkable if the available platforms are utilised effectively. There are wonderful platforms such as WISTA (Women International Shipping & Trading Association) that encourage, educate and expose women to opportunities and industry information. It is also an avenue to network with established women in the industry locally and internationally. Lastly, these platforms avail women an opportunity to contribute to discussions that shape policy formulation within the industry.
A word of advice/encouragement for female cadets and other young girls who desire to pursue a career in the maritime industry
Stay focused on your goal and what you’re trying to achieve, I know the journey can be long but be committed, remember that you are doing this for every young girl out there who dreams of an opportunity such as this. By fulfilling your goal of a successful career in the maritime industry, you are telling every young girl out there, You can be on board too!!