The IMRF held its first-ever #WomenInSAR Training & Seminar Event as part of our initiative to raise the representation of women in the maritime sector and to provide support for, and raise the profile of, women in the maritime SAR sector specifically.

The event, which was held in conjunction with the Finnish Lifeboat Institution (FLBI), took place in Bågaskär training centre and Turku, Finland, from 26-29 August and was attended by a wide selection of full-time staff and volunteers from across the global maritime SAR sector.

The women-only training event was attended by 16 women from seven countries, while the seminar had 42 participants, both men and women, from 10 countries.

Click here to see the full gallery of photos from the event: https://www.international-maritime-rescue.org/news/womeninsar-training-seminar-2022-gallery

The training event gave participants the opportunity to learn practical and real-life operational skills, delivered by experts at the FLBI. It included live exercises on board various types of rescue boats, simulated exercises on improving communication and decision-making skills, and talks on understanding crew welfare, operating safely, and how to be a leader in a SAR unit.

The #WomenInSAR seminar, which brought together men and women from across the maritime SAR sector, featured several impressive speakers, each of which noted the impact that women can have when it comes to saving lives at sea.

Mira Leinonen, Senior Inspector at Finland’s Regional State Administrative Agency, spoke on ways to promote equality at rescue services, while Anneli Häyrén, a crew volunteer at the Swedish Sea Rescue Society (SSRS) and researcher of gender studies at Sweden’s University of Uppsala gave a talk about the importance of norm awareness and how it impacts recruitment and daily work at maritime SAR stations.

Participants were also joined by Emma Kimiläinen, a professional Finnish racing driver, who spoke about stereotypes, her experience of being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry and her recipe of success. In addition, Dr Suzanna Razali Chan, Head of Disaster Relief Branch, Search and Rescue & Disaster Relief Division at the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, also discussed her experience and shared her tips for success.

Credit: FLBI

For the IMRF and the FLBI, the four-day #WomenInEvent was an invaluable opportunity to highlight the importance that women can play in a maritime SAR organisation.

“I am incredibly honoured of our #WomenInSAR event in Finland. Not only did it give us an opportunity to show the steps that women have taken in maritime SAR over the years but allowed us to come together to discuss ways that we continue to promote diversity and equality in our industry for years to come,” said Theresa Crossley, CEO of the IMRF.

“We were proud to host this incredible event and I want to thank the IMRF for their leadership of #WomenInSAR globally. We will continue to support this initiative for as long as it is needed,” said Jori Nordström, CEO of the FLBI.

Participants of both the training and seminar events said that a number of key lessons on diversity and how to encourage women in SAR will be taken back to their home SAR organisations in a bid to improve best practices.

“The IMRF #WomeninSAR event provided a platform to come together, share and learn right across the sector; from it I feel I have built an international network that will help support my organisation to recruit and develop women in SAR roles whilst holding me to account to ensure this important work doesn’t get lost in the day job. The participants, trainers and speakers were inspiring and now it’s about putting what I took away into action,” said Helen Williams from the UK’s RNLI

Credit: FLBI

A number of delegates also noted that there are steps every member of SAR organisation can take to raise the profile of women in maritime SAR.

“There are small things everyone can do. Don’t always treat women that are new to the team as if she’s not going to be able to put on her own gear. Take people seriously when they show an interest in it and if they are overwhelmed with a new task, don’t take it out of their hands. Instead, help and encourage them,” said Frederike Bensch from Germany’s DLRG.

Most importantly, the #WomenInSAR training and seminar gave all participants an opportunity to realise the value in both men and women as SAR responders, as well as the need to build a cohesive and understanding maritime SAR team.

“Saving lives at sea is not just a man’s job. It’s the teams of professionals, both men and women alike, working together for the same goal that gets the job done. That’s what makes a great maritime SAR team,” said Carmen Long from South Africa’s NSRI.

“It’s not just about recruitment or ill-fitting personal protection equipment. It’s about creating a local, national and international culture that recognises the value and potential of all people,” said Matthew Fader from the SSRS.

The IMRF’s #WomenInSAR Initiative, which launched in June 2019, has spent the past three years developing key resources and guidelines that can be used in any SAR organisation. Click here to learn more about the initiative: https://www.international-maritime-rescue.org/News/the-imrf-womeninsar-initiative