What it’s like to be a woman in the Scottish fishing industry

June 22, 2022 by No Comments | Category Fisheries

We have published a new independent report, providing insights on the real life experiences, challenges and opportunities of women working in the Scottish fishing industry.

The Women in Scottish Fisheries review was carried out by PhD student, Katja Hržić in 2021 during a three-month internship in the Scottish Government’s Marine Analytical Unit, and draws from a wide body of research literature.

This review was delivered as part of Scotland’s Fisheries Management Strategy 2020-2030, which has a key outcome to promote fishing as an attractive and safe career of choice, supporting new entrants into the sector, and equal treatment regardless of national origin or gender. It also has the potential to shape policy outcomes which contribute to better outcomes for women working in the sector.

The review centres around three questions:

  • what are the perceived and lived challenges for women in Scottish fisheries?
  • what opportunities have supported women in fishing communities in Scotland and beyond?
  • women are not all the same, therefore, how do other factors contribute to the experiences of women in fisheries?

We spoke to Katja about her placement experience and her research project.

What is the stand out finding / findings for you?

“For me, it is the need to tackle sustainability and safety issues, and how improvements in these areas might have a direct impact on improving equality in the industry. This is already included in Scotland’s Fisheries Management Strategy, but looking at the literature and existing reports made me realise how challenging this work is.

“Views on equality and fair employment in fishing communities are complex and not uniform, with many women taking on significant but informal or unpaid roles within fishing communities. A third of the Scottish seafood processing sector identified as female last year.

Pie chart of gender of employees in Scottish seafood processing in 2021 shows women make up just over one third of employees. Produced through Seafish' Tableau Public at Processing Enquiry Tool | Tableau Public“Women often face a range of practical, socio-economic and cultural challenges. It can be something as broad as difficulty in accessing training or the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus pandemic on caring responsibilities, to something as basic as inappropriate clothing or safety mitigations which are suited more towards men.

“Throughout the report, gender-specific language was avoided, opting for ‘fisher’ rather than ‘fisherman’. It’s a small transition that quietly asks for more inclusivity within the industry.”

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

“Despite the logistical challenges of the coronavirus pandemic I really enjoyed the time I spent in the Marine Scotland Directorate. I was working remotely, so it took a few weeks to get used to internal IT systems, and to feel fully integrated in the team. It really helped that everyone was very welcoming and I had a great time. Another challenge was getting the tone right in my writing but with the help and guidance from my colleagues and supervisor I learned how to structure my findings.”

What was your biggest personal take away?

“I wanted to gain a better understanding of the work of the Marine Scotland Directorate, Scottish fisheries policies, and experience in applying research to policy. I now have an understanding of fisheries-related policy, especially aspects related to equality and fair employment which is something I can apply to my own research. I also gained a lot from collaborating with others and working on varied day-to-day tasks which is very different from an independent research project; I realised that this type of work really suits me, so I am considering another SG internship later in my PhD.

“Being invited to present at the Marine Social Science Network seminar was an exciting experience with an opportunity to discuss the findings with other researchers and experts on the topic.”

  • The views and opinions of the report are that of the author and do not constitute government policy
  • The image at the top of this blog is copyright of Seafish:

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