Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges
Monica Kohli, the spirited president of the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association UK (WISTA UK), stands as a beacon of female empowerment and inspiration, igniting a tidal wave of change within the maritime industry. From the depths of her seafaring lineage, Monica's connection to the sea runs deep. From her earliest moments, she was nurtured by the salt-kissed air, and guided by the steady hand of her father, a venerable captain. Her unique upbringing saw her spend her first five years sailing the open waters. The endless horizons of the open sea were her playground, and her father her guiding star.
Yet, when the time came to choose her own career path, Monica confronted a disheartening realisation. The absence of women seafarers cast shadows of doubt upon her dreams. Unfazed by convention, she resolved to embark on a different maritime journey—one that blended legal acumen with her deep-rooted love for the ocean. Monica's unwavering determination propelled her from an undergraduate degree at the prestigious National Law School of India, to a profound immersion in maritime law and an MBA.
Undeterred by the patriarchal tides that sometimes surged against her, Monica set sail on an international expedition, casting her anchor in Singapore, India, Copenhagen, and ultimately finding solace in the vibrant heart of London. Along the way, she encountered the resounding echoes of WISTA, a women’s network that lit a passionate flame within her. Although WISTA India was yet to be born, Monica's voyage of purpose steered her to WISTA UK's embrace, where she found a home among kindred spirits.
While Monica believes her time to sail the seas has passed, her love for the maritime industry remains unabated.
She encourages other women to pursue a seafaring career if it aligns with their aspirations. She firmly believes in the power of dreams and stands ready to offer advice, mentorship, and support to those seeking guidance.
Through her words and actions, Monica tirelessly advocates for women in the industry. Aware of the gender disparity in the industry, Monica actively works to bridge the gap and provide opportunities for women. With only 2% of seafarers being female, she acknowledges the urgent need for change. WISTA UK is stepping up by fundraising to offer a bursary to finance female seafarers, but Monica emphasises that it is the collective responsibility of women to support and uplift each other.
As President of WISTA UK, Monica appreciates the strength of collaboration and partnerships. She values the work of WISTA International and actively seeks opportunities to connect with other networks. She firmly believes in working together, building bridges, and eradicating isolation. Monica also understands the importance of visibility in achieving gender equality. She aims to normalise the promotion of women in the maritime industry and emphasises the need for availability and equal opportunities for women. She envisions a future where women can confidently promote themselves and build their own networks.
Monica Kohli’s determination, resilience, and unwavering belief that women have a place in the maritime industry paves the way for countless others to follow. Through her leadership role in WISTA UK and her ongoing efforts to empower and inspire, Monica is creating a more inclusive and progressive environment for women in shipping. Her journey serves as a reminder that barriers can be broken, bridges can be built, and dreams can be realised.
Written by Carly Fields
© Emilie Sandy Photography, 2023