Speech by the newly elected WISTA International President, Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, held at the WISTA International AGM in Rotterdam, Oct 4, 2017
It is an honour to be here, supporting and serving an association whose potential I believe in and support.
We have seen our 43-year old association become even more well-recognised and respected during the last 6 years of Karin’s presidency. It has grown in stature and purpose, in scope and in numbers. There are now 40 national WISTAs and there are plans in place for more to be formed.
We have a growing role in the shipping industry and it is one we should embrace while we remain true to the values and identity that make us what we are. Where we are today is thanks to all of you with your continued support and membership.
But first, let me talk about the shoes I have to fill. Taking over the role of President is one of the biggest honours of my life. It comes at a time of transformation of our industry and while it may be tempting to get wrapped up in societal and business evolution, it remains important that we adhere to the purpose of WISTA to create a forum for industry discussion on the terms that we set ourselves.
I take over this role from Karin Orsel, and she will be a tough act to follow. She has achieved much in her tenure, both in growing our association and giving it a stronger sense of value that make it now an association that others recognise and respect. Taking over from Karin, at a time like this, when we have so much change in our industry will be a challenge, but a welcome and rewarding challenge.
So why me? I find it hard to talk about myself so openly, but I am aware that there may be some members here that do not know me as well as I would like. You may know that I am the Chief Executive of a leading maritime technology and communication enablement business, Tototheo Maritime based in Cyprus, and I am the founding President of WISTA Cyprus.
But I want to describe myself in other words. I have a career that I dreamt of, but it has not made me slow down. I like to challenge myself every day . For me it is important to seek self-development at every turn, to assume there is something you do not know, and there is more that you can do.
Life is more than making an income, it is about making an impact and I feel I have the privilege, honour, capacity and opportunity to do that and I think these are some of the values I would like to infuse into our international association.
WISTA is a networking association, it is about meeting people and let’s not forget the T in our name. Trading means meeting people. Connecting and seeing what business you may have in common.
There’s two other T’s that have a strong influence over our industries. One is Tradition. The other is Technology.
I am a firm believer in both, I believe in the respect for tradition and in the future of technology.
I believe in values, but encompassing change and making it our own.
As the head of a forward-thinking business, I work closely on the cusp of change, looking at the technology developments, the inventions, the trends.
I listen to many influential, intelligent and inspirational people in this industry and I see how committed they are to evolve and modernise shipping. Some have a foot firmly in tradition, others do not. Both should be equally welcome. But this is most certainly a period of societal change and WISTA should be there, as a voice to be listened to. This is about change with a sense of purpose. Change can be good for diversity, and for women in the industry and the purpose of WISTA must be kept relevant.
A lot has been achieved in recent years in supporting and spreading the value of diversity and acceptance, and while WISTA is not a political organisation, we know that women in the industry add value and strength in the places they work. We are an association of women in roles of responsibility and when I look around I see executives and professionals who continually succeed in what they do and WISTA’s primary role is to support them.
But there is a lot more that can be done around shipping, and I see other industry bodies beginning to recognise this.
WISTA International cooperates with many international organizations as it seeks to offer stronger support for diversity in its sector, particularly young women who are starting careers in our industry. This is a good indication about the value that WISTA has both at the national level and the international level. And it is testament to our value and work that important associations are coming to us.
WISTA must remain a relevant part of a future maritime industry. It has to be there as an association of choice for women, and men, to seek advice, help and where we can offer it, support. We need to meet the needs of our members by answering to them. We need to remain dedicated to transparency and being focused on the future.
But to strengthen our position internationally we must strengthen our own internal ties. Therefore, we are now seeking to appoint a new part time role in WISTA, a communications and support officer that will help me strengthen the bond between the national WISTA bodies and WISTA International.
As I mentioned previously, Karin has done a tremendous job. Not only in shaping WISTA in the industry, but also in shaping WISTA internally. That work continues. WISTA is about women of authority talking on how we can be part of evolution, giving our members the chance to trade, network and learn.
We have so many professional maritime executives who are members of the various WISTA national associations, that are well educated, dedicated and a shining example of the greater maritime industry and the organization they also represent. WISTA is growing, never has it felt so inspiring to be a member of what is a wide ranging yet focused association. It is a source of inspiration and it is about collaboration, now as much as before.
We have the excellent work from our working groups, on communications and HR and what I would like us to initiate is also a working group on technology and innovation. Our current work remains important, and I think we should grow on its success. I intend to bring further work into WISTA looking at the role of technology. Technology and particularly, digital technology is changing the face of society, and the maritime sector.
In the digital world, where start-ups and new ideas abound, there are many women taking a leap of faith in their ability to seize the disruptive opportunities. WISTA is there, as a potential bridge to encourage this to happen in the maritime sector.
In such a time of change there is a growing need to have ever closer liaison between WISTA International and the national WISTA members. As President of a growing international body, I need to have the ability to work closely with the national association presidents. As we see the changes before us, we can no longer rely on only our annual meetings, we need to make the opportunities for increased dialogue using all the tools at our disposal, allowing the national membership to have a stronger voice.
This will strengthen the role of the national membership, allow for collaboration between national associations and allow us to identify and promote local ideas and valued work on an international platform.
Finally, I thank you for giving me the chance to put my energy, skills and passion to work as your President. We have an industry of opportunity, in a time of change. WISTA will be part of that journey, as a valid and valued industry body. We will see WISTA grow, with a sense of purpose.