Liana Kouimtzi is part of a team of four female shipping professionals behind the establishment of the UAE branch of the Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) in 2022.
WISTA is a global organisation connecting female executives and decision-makers around the world. It serves as a link for its network of more than 3,800 female professionals from all sectors of the maritime industry in more than 50 countries, now including the United Arab Emirates.
Liana started working in shipping with GAC back in her native Greece 30 years ago and has been working with GAC Hub Services in Dubai since 2016, now as Assistant Commercial Manager, and often meets other women working in the shipping sector at industry events.
"It soon became clear that we needed to have our own WISTA in the UAE, to systemise our networking on frequent basis" she says.
"A group of us decided to make it happen. That meant legally launching it as an entity under UAE law. In February 2022, after two years, finally WISTA UAE was formally established. It was officially welcomed to the WISTA International fold at the AGM in Geneva, Switzerland, in October last year."
Full support Liana, who is a member of the WISTA UAE Board as Events and Marketing Manager, had the full support of GAC Hub Services and Group Operations Director Lars Hardeland throughout the time it took to set up the new national association. The initiative also chimes with the GAC Group's commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 — Gender Equality.
"Having that support meant a great deal and was a clear sign of GAO's commitment to empowering women in an industry which used to be considered a male domain — and I stress 'used to be'."
Speak up! Despite the growing number of women working in sector worldwide, male voices still dominate in industry events and panels. WISTA International and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have joined forces to launch a new platform to amplify diversity of voices in maritime. Women in the sector are encouraged to inspire, educate and engage audiences by registering as speakers on the new Maritime Speakers Bureau to end the tradition of all-male speaking panels. It is free to register and use by speakers and event organisers alike, aiming to eliminate the excuse 'I cannot find a female speaker'.
"It is the latest step in challenging outdated stereotypes about our business," says Liana. "With the IMO's 2019 campaign about empowering women in maritime, and the contribution of WISTA International, we have seen a rise in the recruitment of women by shipping companies.
"There is still a long way to go to reach a balanced male/female workforce but it sends a strong, positive message to the maritime world."