Below is an interview with Catrien Scheers, chairwoman of Belgian shipping company Fast Group, about her recent participation in the AGM of WISTA International in Hamburg. In the overwhelmingly male environment of shipping, Catrien has often been nicknamed ‘the leading lady of breakbulk’ for her well-known tenacity and acute business sense.
RBSA: Hello Catrien! You were in the AGM of WISTA International last week in Hamburg. How did the event go?
Catrien Scheers: It was inspiring! Keynote Matthew Griffin advised the industry to ‘swim out of its lane’. That was what the organisers WISTA Germany did. It was the first hybrid WISTA AGM and Conference. All activities were corona-proof and held in the open air at the “Tennis Court at the Rothenbaum”in Hamburg. It was cold but the lively panel discussions and valuable insights from stakeholders across all fields of the maritime industry kept the energy high. WISTA Belgium received the Certificate of appreciation for 10 years of activity and commitment to WISTA!
RBSA: As a woman shipowner, you have been active in WISTA for 10 years. Can you tell us about your motivations for joining and being active in the organisation?
Catrien Scheers: 10 years ago, Marc Nuytemans – the Managing Director of the RBSA at the time – asked me to join WISTA. His wife Carmen Dewilde started WISTA Belgium. I did not feel the need to join an all-women’s club, but Marc said I should give it a try… I never regretted this! WISTA is an amazing network. Just imagine the wonderful energy when maritime women from 54 nations come together! We laugh and have fun while re-imagining the future of the maritime industry!
RBSA: The main mission of WISTA is to promote women into leadership positions in the shipping industry. In this traditionally male-dominated sector, how do you see WISTA succeeding in its goal?
Catrien Scheers: For me, it is the combined forces of both women and men that make the industry stronger! WISTA members lead by example and in our daily working environment we stimulate talented women to take up their space! WISTA provides excellent networking opportunities as well as mentoring support for young professional women.
RBSA: Apart from addressing the Gender Gap, WISTA also organises itself around committees looking at diversity, HR, technologies, and most recently trade. How do you see the broadening of WISTA’s discussions in helping to attract more women into the maritime profession, and also to achieve WISTA’s goal of promoting equality at management level?
Catrien Scheers: The purpose of these committees is to offer the opportunity for dialogue between different actors in the industry and for women to weigh in on debates that shape shipping and trading. WISTA provides liaison with other related institutions and organisations worldwide. They partner with the ICS for example to offer scholarships to provide young women with deeper knowledge of the maritime industry. An MoU was signed between WISTA and the IMO in 2020, and as part of this collaboration, a survey will be undertaken every three years. The IMO-WISTA international survey on women in maritime is to examine the proportion and distribution of women working in the maritime sector, from support roles to executive level positions.
RBSA: Do you have any advice for women leaders out there who are still not members of WISTA and for any young women who are considering a career in shipping?
Catrien Scheers: If you are looking for an innovative, open minded, varied, and international job, consider shipping as no two days are the same and do join WISTA. As WISTA member, you have access to an incredibly diverse network of executives in the shipping and trading field on whom you can call for referrals, connections, advice, and business collaborations. Do not be afraid to use this network. When travelling, meet up with WISTA sisters around the globe.
RBSA: Thank you for this chat, Catrien! It’s been very insightful.
Catrien Scheers: My pleasure.