Activists rewarded for championing diversity in maritime

Two activists promoting the rights of women and LGBT+ members in the maritime community have today (3 September 2021) been recognised for their achievements.

Second Officer Paul Owen is the first ever recipient of the prestigious Merchant Navy Medal for his efforts in promoting LGBT+ rights across the maritime sector.

Championing minority groups rights throughout his career, particularly for women and LGBT+, Owen assisted in the establishment of the first ever Pride in Maritime, part of Maritime UK’s Diversity in Maritime programme, with the backing of the UK government. The initiative today is a space for over 400 members and leads on campaigns to help identify barriers to change across the whole maritime sector, and to educate and enable individuals and companies to embrace, empower and support the LGBT+ community.

“I am deeply humbled and surprised to receive this honour,” says Owen who comes from Blackpool. “I have played a small part in the Diversity in Maritime initiative whilst seconded to Maritime UK but it has broadened my knowledge of the diversity issues faced in the Maritime Sector through involvement in the four aspects of the programme (Ethnicity, Pride, Women and Mental Health).

“Having suffered a degree of bullying early in my career because I identify as LGBT+, I made the conscious decision to offer support to fellow seafarers who were experiencing difficulties because of their sexuality. This has been on an informal basis through social media and company forums but going forward I will be appointed as the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries LGBT+ Champion when I return to the RFA this autumn.”

Another recipient is Captain Susan Cloggie-Holden, from Seamill, who is the first woman to reach the Rank of Captain in the RFA’s 116-year history.  Cloggie-Holden receives a Merchant Navy Medal for her work to encourage, promote and support women in maritime. A founding member of the Women in Maritime Taskforce, the forum boasts over 700 members, with Cloggie-Holden recently assuming the role of Vice-Chair.

Cloggie-Holden says: “I’m honoured to be awarded this prestigious medal alongside some truly inspirational seafarers. To reach the rank of Captain has been my career ambition and I now feel it is my duty to help others to reach their goals. I believe diversity is key to this, as an inclusive and diverse working environment ensures everyone is equal and enables them to reach their potential.”

Robert Courts, maritime minister comments: “Every year I am humbled by the dedication of these sailors, Captains and mariners who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty to protect and enrich the sector and our country.

“I’m delighted to see Paul and Susan rewarded for their outstanding service; diversity is vital for the success of any sector and the extraordinary work they do on a daily basis not only makes maritime a welcoming career path for everyone but improves the lives of those already in the workforce.”

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