Staking their claim in the maritime industry has in many cases been a constant battle for women, as they often have to work twice as hard as men for their efforts to be recognised. However, women at Elgin Brown & Hamer (EBH) Namibia are working and having fun in the maritime industry, despite finding themselves in a tough male-dominated industry.
“Be yourself and stand up for what you believe in.” Hold your head up high.” These are common phrases uttered by EBH women, who all pay tribute to a company that, far from being discriminative, actively encourages career development among all its employees, men and women,” says Klaudia Shitthigona, acting technical training officer in the HR department of EBH.
EBH Namibia, is a ship repair company strategically located on the west coast of Africa in Walvis Bay. It provides a holistic service solution in all aspects of marine engineering and ship repair to the local and international shipping and offshore industry. It operates three privately-owned floating docks in Walvis Bay, including a Panamax-sized dock.
Klaudia says they are among a few fortunate women in the maritime industry that were given an opportunity to study and grow in their chosen careers. “We feel honoured and empowered to make decisions, previously only made by men,” she says.
Elizabeth Mandume, a carpentry foreman at EBH, says she enjoys the culture of inclusivity in the company and the support she receives from management in solving problems within her department.
Mandume moved up the ranks from artisan to supervisor level, something she puts down not only to hard work and self-belief, but to the benefits of ongoing training and support.
“The company has empowered me in my role as supervisor. I appreciate the opportunities I have had for further training at this level. This includes attending an international conference, where I learned a lot through networking with other women leaders in the maritime industry in Africa,” says Elizabeth.
Mandume, further said that working in carpentry, emphasises the value of people-skills and teamwork. “As a woman you have to be hard when it comes to solving a problem, but soft when it comes to people. You need to trust your team, ensure that everyone plays a role and do not be a dictator – this is the way to build a team,” she advised.
While Klaudia appreciates a culture of equal rights in the workplace, she concedes that the maritime environment could be “hard and tough,” and that women need to be well prepared when it comes to negotiating prices and contracts with their male counterparts. “You need to stand your ground and be prepared to win an argument!” she says.
“I believe many employers prefer to give jobs to women, because we work in a clearer, more organised and structured way,” she adds.
Organisational development and training superintendent at the company, Candice Damens, also emphasised how essential it is for women to be confident in a male-dominated industry.
“We’ve come a long way, but I believe women still have a lot to prove within the vocational sphere. What I appreciate about our company is that I can raise my opinions and concerns and make decisions in a manner which is respected and given fair consideration by management,” she said.
Mona-Lisa Katjivari said the greatest achievement for her was when she received her Grade 12 certificate and later a higher certificate in logistics management through EBH’s career development programme.
“I knew nothing about this industry when I joined the company, but through the training and courses I’ve attended, I’m proud that I’m now able to work independently and with confidence in the shipping industry,” said Katjivari.
CEO of EBH Hannes Uys says since EBH’s inception in 2006 the company has enjoyed a growing reputation as the shipyard of choice along the west coast of Africa and a culture of teamwork, training and skills development has been the cornerstone to the company’s success
In a globally competitive industry, such as shipping, where world-class standards have to consistently be maintained, the skills of each and every individual, regardless of gender, have to be nurtured.
“We believe EBH Namibia has made significant headway when it comes to setting the trend in empowering women in the maritime sector, thereby bridging the gender gap on many levels,” says Uys. “As long as the employee is physically and mentally capable of performing a job, gender should have nothing to do with opportunity,” he concluded.