Marie Christine Montfort, co-founder and president of WSI. Image: private.

Women set sites on Icelandic trade fair

WSI, a newly-formed international association that aims to promote gender equality in the seafood industry, has announced that they have booked a stand at this year’s Icefish exhibition.


The motivation to create WSI came from the growing recognition that, although one in every two seafood workers is a woman, women are over-represented in the lowest paid and lowest valued positions and very few have leadership roles.

Ahead of the event, the president and co-founder of the association, Marie Christine Monfort, spoke to Fish Farming Expert about some of the glaring inequalities in the seafood sector and how these might be overcome.

Ola Wands, fish health specialist, Cook Aquaculture Scotland. Image: Rob Fletcher.

Ola Wands, fish health specialist, Cook Aquaculture Scotland. Image: Rob Fletcher.

What are the key issues facing women in seafood?

Everywhere, in the mind of people, the seafood industry is a men’s world. In reality, when looking in more detail, it is a closed world, where women are not given the same chances as men. When you look at the distribution of all positions disaggregated by sex you find a great imbalance – top jobs for men, undervalued positions for the majority of women.

What are the main challenges that WSI is seeking to address?

WSI would like to highlight the high participation of women in the industry and to raise awareness of this gender imbalance, to make people realize that things could be organized differently without affecting the performances of the business, and encourage business actors and policy makers to be active in effecting these changes. For instance, at the moment French seafood training schools design their teaching advertisements to appeal to young men. This gender discrimination in education does not make sense.

How do women fare in the UK and Norway compared to other parts of the world, and what are the key areas where these two countries can improve their gender equality records?

We only have limited view on both countries and are not able to answer this question except for by partial observations. For instance, in a survey on top positions, we found out that in Norway, where women must make up at least 40% of management boards, all companies respect it; but where the quota is not legally binding, such as in executive boards, the participation of women is much lower – ie where there are no legal requirements women are underrepresented in top positions.

What feedback have you had for WSI since you were founded in December?

We first questioned our professional contacts and colleagues to measure their interest in such an initiative. Their responses were very encouraging. Since being founded we have received positive feedback already from countries including Egypt, Australia, Iceland, the UK, Norway, France and Senegal.

What you hope to achieve at Icefish?

We want to create a surprise. Icefish is a window for technology and mechanics and, from what we know, the fair is mainly visited by men. But we will be there, challenging this gender organization. We also expect to collect precious data, as we will take the opportunity to run a vast survey questioning visitors about their perception of the situation and the reasons for the current gender imbalance. Come and visit us at Hall 1 stand A70, and share your experience with us.

Kimberley Izdebski. Site Manager, Scottish Sea Farms. Image: Rob Fletcher.

Kimberley Izdebski. Site Manager, Scottish Sea Farms. Image: Rob Fletcher.


Are you looking for funding and support so you can become more visible?

We intend to run specific projects, such as at Icefish, that will highlight women’s participation in the industry. We need the support of both men and women; we are very open to experiences, ideas, and (where possible) financial support. All details of how to join our not-for-profit association are given on the website .

What are your main goals (both short and long term)?

In the short term, we expect that WSI’s event in Reykjavik will be a great moment where men and women will come and share with us their opinions and ideas on this important topic. Eventually we want to participate to the modernization of the industry, where women would have equal access to all positions in the industry; and where policy makers, in all their decisions, will consider women as key players in the industry.

Icefish takes place on 13-15 September.


Published: 25/01/2017 at 9:43 am

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