In 2017, is there really gender bias associated to industries and roles? Not if you’re a woman aiming for success in logistics and transport.
“In recent years, several major studies have demonstrated that having more female leaders, board members, managers and supervisors leads to better business outcomes including higher levels of productivity, safety and improved financial returns,” says Shirley Duma, Director: Human Resources, Barloworld Logistics.
Some of the world’s top logistics companies have women at the helm of their most pivotal departments and you can become one of them. The likes of DHL and Maersk have taken note and are training tomorrow’s leadership in logistics – and they’re doing it well.
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According to the PwC Transportation and Logistics 2030 global report, the number of women participating in the industry is as low as 20% to 30%. In addition, less than 10% of employees in management positions are women. If studies show that females at the helm of companies are leading to better business outcomes, surely more opportunities for women in transport should exist?
So, why aren’t more females involved in logistics on the local front?
The numbers may be low, but they are not non-existent. It’s visibility that appears to be the issue, according to Melanie Hall, vice president of life sciences at DHL Supply Chain. “The logistics industry is working to make changes to attract a more diverse workforce but, in doing so, it’s important that there is a focus on hiring women in positions where they have visibility to inspire and encourage other women into the industry,” says Hall.
As an employee in her role and doing it the best way she knows how, she emphasises the importance of understanding that current perceptions of the industry aren’t always accurate. “Those considering the move into logistics should focus on building their own brand – it’s the best way to ensure you’re accepted in the role for your abilities,” she adds.
What can the industry do to attract more women to the sector?
The low numbers of women in the industry isn’t to say that women lack an interest in transport and logistics. “Women have the desire to pursue educational qualifications in transport and logistics, and on average, achieve higher education levels than their male counterparts,” Duma explains.
Businesses are aware of this and initiatives like the Maersk’s Signature leadership course addresses the need for these opportunities. “Virtually every company deals with a tapering off in the representation of women as you go up the pyramid. There’s no single solution for that. Trust me, we’ve looked,” says Lucien Alziari, Maersk Group’s head of human resources.
Maersk’s approach is to ensure women are surrounded by as many specific enablers as possible – for example, the internal development course Strategies for Success and improved maternity benefits. Transporters must consider rewriting existing policies that make it difficult for women to succeed. A simple reconfiguration of a company’s maternity plan can be a great incentive to consider.
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Trailblazers in the industry
Ifeoma Okpala, general Manager at Maersk South Africa and Chantel Wagner, sector head for automotive operations at DHL Global Forwarding in South Africa, are examples of women who’ve made a name for themselves and contributed to the global success of their respective companies.
“At DHL, we recognise that the logistics industry has historically been a male dominated business, but through our diversity strategy, we have focused on promoting the work, abilities and qualifications of our female employees,” says Chris Remund, CEO DHL Global Forwarding in the USA. His Canadian counterpart Donna Letterio, CEO for DHL Global Forwarding Canada has been with the company for 25 years.
But equality comes at a price, as some of the strategies that helped these female leaders reach their current position include going above and beyond what was expected of them, and building resilience when faced with adversity. Women are already proving that they can succeed in logistics, but it’s up to the industry to offer greater opportunities.
Females looking to move into logistics should focus on building their own personal brand. Transport companies must consider what females can bring to the role in terms of fresh perspectives. Logistics firms’ legacy workforces may be male-dominated, but opportunities for females are available – and it’s up to the industry to make sure the prospects for growth are there.