Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Maritime Affairs


Ph.D (Maritime Affairs)



First Advisor

Momoko Kitada

Second Advisor

Francis Neat


Gender inequality poses a serious problem for national and international developmental programmes such as the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (the Ocean Decade) and appears in both developed and developing countries. The fundamental aim of the Ocean Decade is to improve ocean health worldwide through generating knowledge, supporting innovations, discovering creative ideas and developing solutions to achieve equitable and sustainable development under the changing environmental, social and climate conditions. The paucity of women in ocean management has been documented as a major hindrance to ocean sustainability and a top challenge to diversity in workplaces because of the exclusion of female knowledge, even though the greater proportion of primary resource users are women. The inclusion of women in management leads to different kinds of perspectives and leadership that facilitate and navigate various policy issues. Consequently, the Ocean Decade is committed to ensuring that the issue of gender inequality in the ocean science sector is urgently addressed and the contribution towards ocean-based activities by women is made visible in various disciplines, including education, fisheries, research, conservation and management. However, there is very little information on the link between gender and ocean science, especially in developing countries like Kenya. In order to increase the participation of women, we need to know where the gaps exist and how best to close them. The lack of information about women’s substantial roles has led to unequal opportunities for women to participate in and contribute to ocean scientific research and governance. This lack of awareness about gender equality among ocean science communities has thwarted the progress and inclusion of women. Gender equality is not only about having equal gender ratios in terms of students and staff within institutions, but also how this is related to seniority, position and influence. It is about understanding how gender intersects with factors such as ethnicity, education, class and age and how organisations must be inclusive, diverse and ensure everyone has an equal voice and opportunity – numbers are not all. This research explores gender equality gaps in ocean science institutions and the existing gender-related policies, providing baseline gender-disaggregated data and accounting for the underrepresentation of women in ocean science. The research employed a Feminist Political Ecology framework, utilising a balanced approach of quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis methodologies. Using Kenya as a case study, this research has used the Gender Integration Continuum framework to evaluate the effectiveness of institutional gender policies against national standards. In addition, the study investigated gender gaps (using gender- disaggregated data) in the enrolment of students and recruitment of staff in ocean science universities and non-academic institutions. The career patterns, experiences and barriers of both female and male students and ocean science professionals were also obtained through questionnaires and interviews. The questionnaires were administered to 102 undergraduate and postgraduate students while 30 interviews were conducted using two sets of guiding questions to target two groups of participants, i.e. ocean science staff in general and staff dealing specifically with gender issues –the gender focal points within the institutions, thus gaining insight into individual staff experiences as well as institutional work and progress on gender equality. The ocean science institutions studied were categorized into four groups: public universities, government agencies, non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations. The findings revealed that even though most public universities have gender policies in place, these do not necessarily translate into gender balance of students and staff. Fewer female than male students were found to be enrolled in ocean science-related courses at public universities. All the ocean science institutions had lower representation of female staff at all career stages, including management and decision-making positions. Institutional management was found to be strongly male-centred (androcentric), especially in government affiliated agencies. Interestingly, this was not the case for non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, where the number of female managers and directors was greater than in academia. Ethnic and gender biases were found to be prominent in the enrolment of students and hiring of staff in ocean science programmes. Cultural barriers, gender discrimination and stereotypes were highlighted by student respondents as the major impediments to full participation of female students in ocean science education. Results also showed that career patterns were diverse between female and male staff, with both genders acknowledging discriminatory promotion guidelines, work-family conflicts, incidents of sexual harassment and lack of support and recognition as barriers to career progression and gender equality in ocean science. Most participants mentioned institutional gender centres and formalised gender policies as good practices in forwarding gender equality. Based on these findings, this study generated the following recommendations that will significantly contribute to, promote and improve the status of gender equality in ocean science institutions in Kenya: (i) the establishment of gender- transformative policies with clear and measurable targets and indicators, (ii) the effective implementation of such policies through regular evaluation and monitoring, (iii) constant and mandatory gender analysis through collection of gender-disaggregated data of students and staff to keep track on the progress, (iv) having equitable recruitment and hiring committees or panels to eliminate discrimination, (v) including women in leadership, management and decision- making positions in the institutions, (vi) mandatory training of students and staff, and (vii) developing and strengthening mentorship programmes to encourage and attract more female prospects to increase their participation in ocean science fields.