Forty large maritime companies have signed a gender equality pledge to address the paucity of women in the UK industry, where only 2 per cent of the workforce are female. The companies include cruise operator Carnival UK, part of the world’s largest leisure travel business, which has a market capitalisation of $40.5bn; Dubai-based global port operator DP World; and BP Shipping, an arm of the oil major. The pledge was signed in June but the companies’ names have only now been released by Maritime UK, the trade body. David Dingle, chairman of Maritime UK and of Carnival UK, said the industry needed to encourage girls at school and women at university to pursue Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and make them aware of the careers they offer. He said maritime engineering and navigation were areas that were particularly poor at employing women. Women need to feel the maritime industry is “welcoming to everybody and that women, if they go to sea on ships, can feel at home, can believe that there are like-minded people with them”, he added. Natalie Desty, director of recruitment agency Marine People, said: “A diverse workforce and industry is necessary to remain competitive on the world stage and to attract the next generation of candidates. Plus, simply put, women make up 50 per cent of the UK’s population, so why not the maritime workforce?” In April 2018, Carnival UK revealed a median gender pay gap of 13 per cent on its one British-registered ship, which was worse than the UK median of 9.7 per cent. Last year during London International Shipping Week, John Hayes, then shipping minister, said only 1 per cent of engine officers in the UK were women, rising to 3 per cent across the whole class of officers. In January, Maritime UK established a task force to address fairness, equality and inclusion in the sector. The task force is developing a Women in Maritime charter, due to be launched in autumn 2018. Maritime companies will establish their own targets for employment by gender, but the task force will not be able to compel more ambitious ones or enforce sanctions if the companies miss their targets. Nicola Good, executive editor of industry magazine Fairplay and a member of the task force, said shipping can have “a blokey culture”, with mostly men together for months on end at sea. She added that while there were female role models in the industry, there were not enough of them. She also said the industry could do better at promoting routes to jobs: while some had studied naval architecture or Stem subjects, or had come from ship-owning families, “most people tend to find themselves in shipping by accident”. Susan Cloggie-Holden, chief officer in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, which supports the Royal Navy while it is at sea, pointed to practical considerations that might deter women from the industry, such as long stretches at sea, which can be “challenging, personally”. She also mentioned a lack of role models. A report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research, commissioned by Maritime UK, found that the sector supported £40bn in business turnover and 185,700 jobs for UK employees in 2015. Maritime UK said shipping carries 95 per cent of the UK’s international trade, or £500bn each year. The industry includes shipping, ports, services, engineering and leisure marine.