Awareness, encouragement and mentoring are indispensable

Anna is the Acting President of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Cyprus, which I actively support for four years now.
I believe in raising awareness, appreciating efforts and encouraging people and therefore, I have asked Anna to share her thoughts on the role of WISTA Cyprus in education and mentoring, among others.

Muriel: “WISTA Cyprus is very active in the local and international shipping community. What is the vision and mission of the Association and how does it promote the values it stands for?”

Anna: “WISTA Cyprus shares the mission and vision set by WISTA International. WISTA mission is to attract and support women in the maritime, trading and logistics sectors. Our vision is to promote diversity in the maritime, trading and logistics sectors, empowering women to lead through their unique perspective and competencies, with the conviction that gender diversity is key in providing a sustainable future for the shipping industry internationally.

To quote WISTA International, we aim to:

  • Minimize the existing gender leadership gap in the maritime, trading and logistics sectors
  • Build a community among our members, facilitate the exchange of contacts, information, and experiences
  • Promote the creation of business relationships among our members
  • Facilitate the professional development of our members
  • Provide liaison with other related institutions and organizations worldwide.

Furthermore, only two months ago WISTA International was approved for consultative status for the IMO and from our side as WISTA Cyprus, we are ready to contribute to this important work.

Muriel: “Based on industry surveys and the members’ feedback, what are the challenges that professionals face in terms of education, awareness and engagement?”

Anna: “As far as we are aware, there aren’t any surveys specific to the shipping industry in Cyprus to this effect, therefore our view is formed from our own experience and our members’ feedback.
As far as education is concerned, at this stage the challenges are the same irrespective of gender, in the same way the profession itself is challenging in itself irrespective of gender.

From personal experience and conclusion drawn from interacting with women across all sectors of the industry, many of the challenges stem from the woman’s role in the Cypriot society and culture which still very much places the lion share of the family responsibilities on the woman.

Having said that, in many occasions it stems from the pressure that women put on themselves in their effort to balance family and career.
That in itself restricts women in terms of the extent and level they can respond to the highly demanding and competitive industry of shipping. And we need to acknowledge that shipping is an industry that “never sleeps”.

Muriel: “How does the Association involve active members of the shipping and trading communities in Cyprus, to share their experiences with WISTA Cyprus members and the public?”

Anna: “For the reasons explained above, WISTA Cyprus is concentrating its efforts on awareness, encouragement and mentoring within the spirit of WISTA’s mission and vision. Through the examples and achievements of our members and sharing of our experiences, in particular those of us of the older generations, or if I may say the first generation, we seek to encourage and support our members.

This we do either by way of members meetings, presentations, through the media and even one to one exchanges, not only with our members but with other women and men in shipping and trading.
In general we aim to draw as much as we can from our networking, both at corporate and individual level.”

Muriel: “Personal relationships and knowledge sharing are important for professional development and career growth. How does WISTA Cyprus encourage people from the shipping and trading industries to become members?”

Anna: “Awareness is the key. We therefore seek to use any platform available to us to reach women and men in the shipping and trading industries and create awareness about our work, mission and vision and future aspirations.

It is very important for professionals as well as corporations to acknowledge that contribution and benefits go together in achieving common goals.
In Cyprus, we have the advantage that albeit being one of the largest shipping centres in the world, we are a small community which is concentrated mostly in Limassol.

This gives us access to other Associations (such as the Cyprus Shipping Chamber, the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, YoungShip, etc.) and the opportunity to build strong relationships with them, while providing professionals with the opportunity to get to know WISTA and its work from arm’s length.

The event which we are hosting on Tuesday 11/09 is a perfect example of how we aim to bring Associations and Shipping professionals closer.”

Muriel: “How does WISTA Cyprus involve its members in various initiatives and what are the projects that the Association is developing?”

Anna: “WISTA Cyprus is one of the younger National WISTA Associations and yet, within its 7 years, it managed to rank 4th out of the 45 NWAs worldwide.

The rapid expansion is an indication of the size and profile of our shipping community. It also reflects how active women in shipping are in Cyprus. WISTA Cyprus is encouraging its members to participate in all of the association's activities through their active participation in the association's training and social events.

Most importantly we encourage our members to participate in the various committees of WISTA International. In addition to Despina Theodossiou being on the helm of WISTA International, we are very proud to have three of our members participating in WISTA International committees, namely Helen Joannou Chrysostomou in the HR Committee, Agatha Savvidou in the Diversity Committee and Natalia Bury in the Technology and Futures Committee.”

Muriel: “What are the challenges that WISTA Cyprus faces and how does it plan to overcome these?”

Anna: “As a young association, awareness and growth were the initial challenges. Personally I like to look at challenges as opportunities.
We aim to take whatever challenges and turn them into opportunities to enhance the relationships of the Association with other shipping bodies and between our members, with the aim to facilitate the development of our members within the industry and minimize the gaps where those exist.

So if we must talk about a challenge, I would say that this is to enhance the awareness within the Shipping corporations (private and Government) about WISTA and illustrate how encouraging WISTA membership yields benefits also to the company itself, both from the development of the individual but also from the business networking that the association is encouraging.

Women professionals need the support of their companies and employers and there is a lot to gain in return from that.”

Muriel: “How can other industries professionals attend some of WISTA Cyprus events and what will they acquire?”

Anna: “As a networking association, we could not but encourage interaction with other professionals. WISTA always aims to include other professionals in all of our events whether social or training, albeit that as a non-profit organisation this may be at a small participation fee where necessary.

The interaction and networking is two-way however, at this stage, we are mainly focused within the shipping industry and professions which are ancillary / supporting to the shipping industry, for example legal and auditing.
It is also important to say that WISTA Cyprus together with WISTA USA were the first National WISTA Associations to introduce male membership, and this is something we see happening in other NWAs too.

Having said that, we are always looking into ways of developing and expanding our networking further and as we always have our members interest in mind, should we feel that we need to be opening up to more industries, we will investigate those possibilities accordingly.”


Anna Vourgos is Acting President of WISTA Cyprus.
After completion of her studies in Commercial Operations of Shipping in London in 1987, Anna started her career in marine insurance working as a broker at Lloyd’s of London for two major insurance broking firms.
In-between insurance postings Anna worked in ship owning and ship management companies and in 1994, she co-founded Aphentrica Marine Insurance Brokers Ltd, where she is currently responsible for the development, placement and servicing of the company portfolio.
Anna is a member of the Board of Directors of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber, where she also chairs the Public Relations Committee and she is Acting President of WISTA Cyprus. In the capacity of guest speaker, she is frequently invited to address the marine insurance students at the Cyprus University of Technology, and as speaker and panellist she has participated in many shipping events and seminars.

© Muriel Matta 2018

Muriel Matta (BSc, MSc, MPhil, Cert CTT Practitioner) is an HR Advisor, Coach, Trainer and Facilitator.
She is a multilingual Human Resources Management expert, with 28 years of cross-cultural experience in MENA, Europe and CIS. 
In line with her Vision, she launched Maravilhosa in 2014 to help organizations build high-performing teams.
For more information:
Muriel can be contacted via email: Muriel@maravilhosa.net