Social Media-Sourced Photo Library for Women in Maritime

“The Power of Imagery Is Key When Trying to Advocate for More Diversity in a Given Industry.”

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A female Second Officer sitting in the cockpit of a Chinese ship. She is very clearly in charge.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a specialised agency of the UN. It’s the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping.

In 1988, the IMO launched the Women in Maritime programme, taking a strategic approach to achieve gender equality in the male-dominated maritime industry. The goal is to achieve more diversity in both shore-based and sea-going posts. 

Part of the programme is not just improving the representation of women on the job but also providing a more inclusive portrait of maritime professions in the news and marketing materials. This, in turn, should help young women and girls envision a future in the sector for themselves. 

A realistic stock photo library of women in maritime

The IMO set out to create a diverse photo library to replace male-dominated stock photography usually seen in the media. To do this, the IMO invited women in the maritime sector to share photos of themselves at work and post them with the hashtag #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare.

The contributions from around the world were collected on a social media wall and ultimately compiled into a Flickr image library and made available to the public to source photos for various uses.

We had a chat with Karine Langlois, the IMO’s Social Media and Communications Officer, to learn more about the project.

Karine Langlois

Karine Langlois

Social Media and Communications Officer, International Maritime Organization

What do you hope to achieve with this photo project?

One of the key objectives of IMO’s Women in Maritime programme is to increase the visibility of women working in the maritime sector. Though the maritime industry is seeing a shift in diversity and is beginning to put gender on the agenda, the absence of images showing women in action remains an issue.  

IMO believes that showing women at work is a great way to empower and motivate the next generation as it features potential role models.

Women need to be visible and mainstreamed in the maritime community on board ships, in the sector and the representations of the maritime sector online and in news reports or brochures, so that when young women are surfing for careers after finishing school, they can be inspired by all sorts of roles and ranks.  

How will the image bank be used?

The IMO image bank will serve as a one-stop-shop for external audiences to source quality, realistic imagery of women in maritime, for use in news stories, news reports, social media posts and brochures about shipping and the broader maritime world. The photos search’s aim is ultimately to build a vibrant photo library of women in maritime. The photos will also be available on the IMO Flickr image gallery and website.

Instagram post screenshot of a woman in marine with the folowing caption: 
Longer sea passages mean time to catch up on chart corrections... Using tracer sheets for the first time, holy shit. So quick!
#maritimeworkers #merchantcommunity #seekoffshore #humansatsea #womenoffshore #chartcorrections #apl #aplmaritime #maritimewomenphotoshare
Source: Instagram

Why did you choose to collect photos via social media and a social wall?

Because our target audience is highly social and likely to be on multiple social media platforms, we thought that this product really suited our needs. 

So we launched the hashtag #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare and to participate, participants could either use the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram or simply submit their photos using an email address we created for that purpose. And with the wall, it created this mosaic of working maritime women which was really empowering and inspiring, and more and more women joined.

Direct social wall post by International Maritime Organization. The image shows a woman holding a tablet standing in front of a screen that shows a top-down view of a body of water. She looks very animated and appears to be teaching to someone. Rachel Keay is a Data Scientist at the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO). Her work involves applying statistical and machine learning techniques to create new marine geospatial datasets.
Source: #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare social wall

How are you promoting the campaign and motivating people to submit photos? 

Originally, the IMO’s gender programme launched the photo search on the International Women’s Day. But we have continued to promote the wall and the initiative through IMO’s social media accounts and via our colleagues in the wider United Nations system, and through our network within maritime industries and maritime professionals as well as IMO Member countries, to make sure everyone hears about it and joins.

Instagram post showing the IMO social wall with the following caption:  
Ladies, it’s not too late to share photos of yourselves in action💪🚢⚓ using the hashtag #maritimewomenphotoshare . Please refer to one of our previous posts with all the details or visit the @imo_hq page😊
Source: Instagram

How did you use the social wall itself during the campaign? Did you display or embed it anywhere? 

The wall was embedded on the IMO website; it was also shown during one of our events to highlight the project.

The social wall embedded on the IMO website’s Women in Maritime landing page.
The social media wall is embedded on the IMO Women in Maritime landing page.

How did the campaign go?

We got hundreds of submissions from women around the world, performing a variety of roles in the maritime industry. We can safely say that the campaign was very successful.

Any plans to repeat something like this project in the future or to use a social wall again?

We definitely think we would like to use the social wall again, perhaps in a different campaign, highlighting a different topic. The power of imagery is key when trying to advocate for more diversity in a given industry or to shed light on a certain issue. 

If there’s already a bandwagon, help it get traction

By starting this project, the International Maritime Organization did something incredibly smart. They honed in on an already existing movement and then gave it more drive.

Women in the maritime industry were already posting fervently on social media, trying to show the world that they exist. IMO reached out to them and gave the movement a hashtag, #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare, and a tangible goal: to create a library of photos showing women in the maritime industry. The campaign gave all those women who were already posting their pics to Instagram and Twitter an opportunity to keep doing what they’re doing, only with a clearer direction.

But IMO also gave people an additional option to submit posts, just in case they were not already active on social media. Submissions could also be sent in via an email address set up for this purpose. Images submitted this way were then uploaded to the social wall by the IMO.

The #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare campaign shows that uplifting the voices that already align with your goal is incredibly effective. It’s the best starting point any hashtag campaign could wish for. If you have something that your target audience already cares about, build on that and give it direction and strength.

Source of featured image: Women in Maritime image bank