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Marie Christine Monfort is the co-founder and president of the International Organisation for Women in the Seafood Industry (WSI), an organization dedicated to raising awareness of gender issues in all seafood-related industries: fishing, fish farming, processing, research, trading…

Economist with a classic academic background (MSc International trade; MSc economy), started working in this field almost by accident. She was raised in Britany where working in maritime affairs was a possibility. The five years Marie Christine spent in Norway at the early stage in her carrier reinforced her attraction to seafood affairs. Along with her 25 years carrier as international seafood market analyst, she witnessed the very unbalanced gendered organization of this “male-dominated” industry. Convinced that a better understanding of this social organization would help to foster equality, together with colleagues she founded the Organisation WSI.

The current position of women in the maritime field situation differs dramatically according to sectors. Either women are there, such as in the seafood industry where they represent 50% of all employees and occupy dominantly the lowest and less valued positions. Or they are very rare such as in the Navy, merchant navy, petroleum industry, etc. Although the situation is very different there are some common traits: women are not given the same chances and opportunities and suffer from strong prejudices.

One of the first projects WSI launched is a worldwide survey, where male and female seafood professionals were asked to share their opinion and experience on the situation of women and the gender situation along the seafood value chain. One of the strong results is that both men and women reported that this industry is characterized by strong gender inequalities and that women meet sexist barriers in their professional way. “Barriers are met at all stages, starting at school, where women are rarely guided towards maritime carriers. In the seafood business, recruitment is often endogamous where families represent an important channel.

Seafood women are often daughter or wife of. Barriers include unconscious bias shared by men and women where women are felt less legitimate than men in some occupation (such as fishermen), or some positions. At world scale less than 10% of seafood enterprises’ board members are women. This sort of discrimination is not specific to our field, but time has come to seriously tackle these issues in our domain as well”. All results of the survey are available here.

WSI in association with Icelandic technic institute MATIS launched an annual video competition and offered to women the chance to shed lights on their experience as active participants in the seafood value chain. The project received the support of The French Development Agency (AFD) If you still believe women cannot be fishermen have a look at some of brilliant examples here. The winning video gets a financial prize and is showed at the International Film Festival of Fisherfolks from the World (Pêcheurs du monde), to take place each year in Lorient (Brittany).

Finding the international dimension of this business as one of the best parts of her job Marie Christine encourages all women to follow their dreams: “Whatever the others say, they should follow their dream and definitely go for it”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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