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Women in business

The women working at Dublin port


Pat Ward

Head of Corporate Services, Dublin Port Company

Having been a male-dominated business for years, the Dublin Port Company is taking action and becoming a leader for gender balance within the industry.

Men and women approach problems differently, which can lead to a fresh way of solving complex and challenging issues.

“We are dedicated to creating a gender balance,” says Ward. “Within our different functions, 71 per cent of our finance staff and 100 per cent of our environmental health and safety staff are female. Our project management and corporate services functions are 55 per cent and 66 per cent female respectively.

“Overall, 17 per cent of our total workforce is made up of women. This has seen a significant increase in recent years, and 30 per cent of our management team are female. We are very proud of our commitment to gender balance in the workplace, and we hope to increase those numbers in the near future.”

Creating an environment and culture of inclusion

Dublin Port Company is the largest port in Ireland. In 2016, it handled around 35 million tonnes of goods and had over two million tourists travelling through it. Employment at the docklands and harbours has historically been male-dominated and intergenerational, with sons and grandsons working in the same areas their fathers and grandfathers worked in.

If policies lead to a more sustainable home and work life for employees, there is no reason we shouldn’t do it.

How does Ward hope to combat the idea of a historically male workplace, and create a gender balance within the staff?

Ward says: “We advertise our positions and we shortlist the CVs who meet the criteria required. We do this in such a way as to have a gender balance of candidates. We try to have an equal number of male and female candidates where it is possible. But, the best person for the job will always get the job no matter what.”

Ward also says they try to foster a culture of encouraging female participation with initiatives that are equally beneficial to both men and women.

“We are currently testing a pilot project where some employees can work from home, which has never been done before at the company. This creates an attractive workplace for those with different needs, such as childcare. Creating a family-friendly culture within the workplace is necessary to retain our top performers.

“We have also looked at job-sharing and flexible working hours. If our policies can lead to a more sustainable home and work life for our employees, then there is no reason we shouldn’t do this.”

Future roles and apprenticeships for women

The organisation has a very low employee turnover as those working there tend to have a job for life. However, the company is planning on expanding their workforce in the future in order to bring in new blood and fresh ideas.

Currently, the areas demanding more physical work such as maintenance, harbour workers and operatives, have a small number of female employees. But, Ward says they are recruiting new operational employees in the year to come, and they are enthusiastic to welcome any woman who wishes to join the company.

Our apprenticeships have never received any applications from women: I really hope that can change.

“We are an equal opportunity employer. Next year, we will be recruiting marine operatives and marine pilots. The operative is charged with the responsibility of operating our pilot boats which bring pilots onto the ship, and the marine pilots navigate the ships through the waters. These are both very physical and highly trained roles, and we would be delighted to have any qualified woman apply for the positions.”

Over the last few years, Ward says they have reactivated their apprenticeship programme. The first wave of the programme reached out to young men and women who had been made redundant in their apprenticeships during the recession. The apprentices would be training as electricians or in mechanical-based roles.

“Surprisingly, we have never received any applications from women for the programme, and I really hope that can change.

“We usually reach out to the local community to provide them with employment opportunities and we’ll be doing that again. We hope there are some women out there who see the opportunity in our apprenticeship programme, as it can provide incredible career opportunities.”

The attittude of the next generation

Female participation in the workplace is highly valued, as bringing more women into the company provides fresh thinking and a different perspective. Ward feels the future looks bright for women in previously male-driven roles.

“My mother’s generation followed the tradition of women staying at home and the man going to work. That has thankfully changed with the times. Women have so much to contribute to the workplace, and men have a lot to contribute to home life and bringing up children.

“I think people now see the benefits a gender balance brings, not only to work but to society. I believe there are many great opportunities for women in the future, both at Dublin Port Company and elsewhere.”

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