In order to maintain female talent in the field and encourage more women to pursue their careers after having children, the government should provide incentives to companies so that women can bring their children to work, marine lawyer Ann Fenech told Times of Malta, as reported by Times Malta.
Balancing work and family
A few months after becoming the first woman to lead a major international maritime organisation, Fenech said that she was able to balance her career and family life because of the strong support system she had.
To be a mother and still have a career, she added, many women still lack the organisational structure at work or the family support system.
Fenech, a mother of two herself, suggested that larger organisations integrate nurseries into their facilities and have them managed by trained carers to enable women to bring their kids to work.
“That is what we did at our law firm when a number of our lawyers got pregnant around the same time,” she said.
“Contrary to what many people might believe, it is not distracting and creates a happier and more productive workforce. The mothers were more relaxed to have their children with them and the workplace became more pleasant, homely and calming.”
Also, she continued, it preserves young female talent, which is priceless to businesses. Through financial incentives, the government should assist employers in implementing these systems.
“This really should be a no-brainer, and we need to face these facts. Talking about gender equality in 2023 is a slap in the face since there are so many circumstances where women are still unable to follow their ambitions.”
But according to Fenech, pursuing their aspirations does not mean making women work. Having power does not always entail having a career.
“If their desire is to have a profession, then they should be able to accomplish it, but if it is to stay at home and focus on their family, then they should be able to do that as well,” she said, adding that she is concerned that society is teaching young girls that failing to have a career equates to failing.
“Becoming a mother is a very empowering experience. We should feel grateful that we have the ability to create life. I didn’t have to give up my career because I wanted to have children.”
“Out of all I encountered in my work, becoming a mother was one of the most precious sensations I had experienced. It never held me back.”
First woman president
Fenech created history in Belgium last October when she was elected as Comité Maritime International’s first female president. Comité Maritime International is a 125-year-old international organisation tasked with drafting international maritime laws affecting sea vessels, which together carry 90% of all global trade.
The group was established to harmonise international maritime legislation and promote trade.
It draughts conventions on maritime collisions, salvage, cargo transportation, pollution, liability limitations, and even modern piracy.
After a few months of being hired as the CMI’s coordinator at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, which worked on the development of a convention governing judicial sales of ships, the Maltese maritime attorney was promoted to the top position. She recently joined the ranks of shipping titans like the Aponte family, who owns the MSC cruise ships, on Lloyd’s list of the top 100 prominent persons in the world of shipping.
She stated, “I never thought I’d be president and I never planned for it.”
“Since it is such a powerful organisation, as a lawyer you read about it and learn its conventions, and as a shipping lawyer you only hope to ever be a part of it. And I feel truly honoured to have been given the position.”
All maritime organisations in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa endorsed Fenech’s nomination for the position, which was made by the National Maritime Association of Australia and New Zealand.
She stated, “Everyone can be successful if they set their minds to it. I want to take this chance to tell ladies to go out there and give it their best effort and chase their ambition.”
On going into labour
Fenech claimed that although she is very focused on her work, she also wants to start a family and that she would never consider giving that up in order to advance her career.
Despite that, she said, she had never stopped working.
I was working when I went into labour with both of my boys, a 32-year-old doctor and a 28-year-old architect, and I went back to work two weeks after giving birth to both of them.
In 1995, when her firstborn was just six months old, she worked on her biggest and most delicate case. The Um El Faroud, a Libyan tanker, had exploded, was in the drydocks when she received a call in the middle of the night.
She was tasked with travelling to the disaster scene to attempt to understand how the explosion had occurred. She had already spent years working in maritime law in the UK and the US by that point. Nine men died in the disaster.
“My husband and my children have always come first, but believe me, in the middle of all my passion,” she added. “I landed in marine law coincidentally and grew fond of it.”
“I would attend every parents’ day, sporting event, school function, and international trip. I had never left. I encourage women to do it because it is doable if you have a solid support system made up of individuals who are sympathetic to your circumstances. I found that in my husband.”
‘Not a man’s world’
Despite having spent her entire professional career in a field that is controlled by men, Fenech claimed that she does not believe that it is a man’s world.
Although many women have experienced disadvantages, I personally have not, she stated.
“I was fortunate to have been nurtured in a family where we were encouraged to pursue any dreams we had, regardless of whether we were a guy or a girl,” says the author.
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Source: Times Malta