The IMO International Day for Women in Maritime: Interview with Charlene Grech

In celebration of the IMO's International Day for Women in Maritime, we talk to Charlene Grech, Quality Assurance Engineering Lead at RightShip, about her experiences in both the maritime and the tech industries.


Tell us about your career before you came to maritime 

Initially, I had studied and graduated as a teacher, and even worked as a lecturer in an IT-focused higher education institution for four years. During this time, I felt a growing curiosity about the technology industry and its possibilities.  

Through my interactions with other lecturers who had industry experience within technology, my interest in the field was further piqued. I ultimately made the decision to leave my teaching career behind and take the leap into the tech industry. I am grateful for the first company that gave me the opportunity to explore this new world, which, like the maritime industry, was and still is not equally represented by women. 

During my time in tech, I continued to broaden my knowledge and experience by working on diverse software projects in various industries. Eventually, I transitioned to working on IT-related recruitment projects before joining another software house where I again worked on diverse software project, one of which was a maritime software project. Following this, I then joined RightShip as part of the tech department. Overall, my journey has taught me the importance of taking risks, exploring new possibilities, and constantly learning and growing.  


How did other industries tackle DEI targets?  

While all the past companies I had the pleasure to work for valued and understood the benefits of having a diverse, equal, and inclusive team, not every company had policies and practices in place to push DEI forward. Valuing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is an important first step, but it is not enough to achieve meaningful change. Companies that only value DEI without actively pushing it forward can miss out on opportunities to attract and retain a more diverse talent pool, which can ultimately hurt the company's bottom line. 

At RightShip, however, it is quite different. DEI is a top priority and we have policies and practices to support it. Our DEI goals are set at the highest level of the organization, and we strive to maintain an inclusive culture where everyone feels welcomed, respected, and valued. We have diverse hiring practices, provide diversity training, and have created employee resource groups, such as our Women's Network, to support underrepresented groups and overcome stereotypes. 

We also hold ourselves accountable and regularly assess our progress towards achieving our DEI targets. Our commitment to DEI is deeply ingrained in our company's values and culture, and we believe that by actively pushing DEI forward, we can attract and retain a more diverse talent pool, create a more inclusive workplace culture. 


What do you think needs to change within a company culture to achieve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) targets?  

I believe that achieving DEI targets requires a concerted effort from companies. It needs to be a top priority for them to make a real impact. One of the first steps is to assess the current company culture and identify areas that need improvement. This can be done through surveys, focus groups, and other forms of feedback. 

Once the company understands where they stand, they should set measurable goals that align with their DEI targets. These goals should be specific, achievable, and trackable. Policies and strategies should be created to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. For example, creating employee resource groups and offering diversity training can promote inclusion and create a supportive workplace culture. 

However, it's not just enough to have these policies and strategies in place. To truly achieve DEI targets, companies need to hold themselves accountable and regularly assess their progress. This means tracking metrics such as employee diversity, promotions, and retention rates. It also means being open to feedback and adjusting policies and strategies as needed. 

Finally, I believe that dedicated people are required to spearhead DEI initiatives. Without dedicated individuals, such initiatives can easily be side-lined by the other demands of the business. DEI cannot be looked at as something that can be done if there's time. Instead, it requires a long-term, concerted effort that involves everyone in the company. It's important not to underestimate the effort and thought required around DEI initiatives, as they can have a significant impact on the overall success of the company. 


Why is it important for the maritime industry in particular to employ more women? 

The maritime industry has long been a male-dominated field, and unfortunately, this trend continues to this day. Women are still vastly underrepresented in the maritime workforce, despite evidence indicating that companies with diverse teams perform better. Men and women have their own distinct strengths and perspectives. By embracing gender diversity in the workplace, organizations can tap into the unique strengths and ways of thinking that women bring to the table. This can be particularly advantageous in a fast-paced and constantly evolving industry like maritime, where fresh insights and innovative solutions are highly valued. Therefore, it's essential for the maritime industry to actively recruit and promote women to ensure that they can benefit from the diverse perspectives and skills that women can offer. Promoting gender diversity in the maritime industry is not just the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. 


What is RightShip doing now to support women in maritime?  

At RightShip, we understand the importance of supporting women in the maritime industry. Our recent initiative of the Women's Network is a key part of our commitment to promoting gender diversity and empowering women in the maritime eco-system. The Women's Network aim to provide a forum for women to connect, share experiences, and provide each other with support and advice. 

Our Women's Network is open to all employees who are interested in supporting gender diversity. The network plans to host internal events where members can connect and learn from one another. We also aim towards providing mentoring opportunities for women at different stages of their careers to help them develop their skills and advance in their roles. In addition, we look forward to partner with other organizations in the maritime industry to promote diversity and inclusion.  

Overall, our Women's Network is only one of the many ways we are working to support women in the maritime eco-system as we strongly believe that by promoting gender diversity, we can help build a stronger and more resilient maritime industry for the future. 


Do you have any success stories from your career or time at RightShip? 

One of my proudest accomplishments was taking the leap and moving away from the job I graduated in and moving into the industry, which was not easy and also one that is not always the path that society describes as being the best job for a woman. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work on diverse projects, widened my knowledge and met many talented people along the way.   

At RightShip, I am fortunate and privileged to be working with a great team, of which 6 out of 9 are women. Seeing individuals grow and develop under my guidance has been incredibly rewarding and I am super proud of how together we have been doing some incredible work that significantly improves the quality of our end products.