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How can we redress the gender imbalance in the logistics industry?
Like many male-dominated professions that have traditionally been viewed as labour intensive, very hands-on, and perhaps exclusive of women, logistics is now much more people-focused and would really benefit from a more diverse workforce. Business development and customer-facing professionals are highly sought after in addition to roles that require drivers and warehouse operatives. There are career opportunities for both men and women available right across the globe in almost every industry and business sector, ranging from life sciences, fashion and retail, to technology, transport, and construction.
Changing perceptions of a career in logistics
In such a candidate-short market and considering the lack of female representation in logistics, companies need to start taking more proactive steps to encourage women to apply for roles. Education also needs to be provided in schools regarding the varied roles that are available and the changing responsibilities of the sector to highlight the opportunities that the industry can offer from both a career and development point of view. From managerial and customer service roles, to warehouse and distribution centre roles, there’s something to suit all women in logistics.
As highlighted in PwC’s report ‘Winning the talent race’, there has been a lot of research that has confirmed the link between a more gender-balanced workforce in logistics and higher financial returns. In fact, those logistics businesses with more women on the board outperform their competitors by 16% in return on sales, and by 26% when comparing return on invested capital.
Although there is such strong evidence highlighting the performance improvements that women in logistics can bring, the persistent reputation of the transport and logistics industry as a ‘non-traditional’ one for women, with few relevant career opportunities, has hampered efforts to bolster gender diversity. Typically, more operational environments tend to have lower levels of gender diversity.
With more women now undertaking tertiary education and studying logistics, naturally, the available female talent in the market is expected to grow significantly. It is important that women view logistics as a viable career option. Michalina Kies, Manager Manufacturing & Supply Chain at Michael Page: “More visibility of female executives at the leadership level is required to change the perception of the industry in Poland and encourage a more diverse workforce to build a career within logistics.”
What can businesses do today?
Logistics professionals are needed in a huge range of different businesses. The fact that the industry is so male dominated can be off-putting in itself. There are unique cultures within the different areas of logistics, and many of these still have a very gender imbalanced workforce. Whether it be road haulage or air cargo, each sector has its challenges. Shipping is one area in particular that has been a challenge for the industry to change. There are barriers that women in this sector face that men typically never do. Speaking to Business Line in an article titled ‘Women no more at sea in the shipping industry,’ Sanjam Sahi Gupta, Director at Sitara Shipping Ltd and Astral Freight Forwarders Ltd had this to say: “Unfortunately, there is a bias towards female cadets on safety issues. Several companies have a ‘no female cadet policy’ to protect themselves from claims in case of harassment.”
The question is, how can logistics businesses help reshape the culture within their teams to ensure women feel more comfortable and willing to pursue a career in the sector? While diversity is the goal, diverse teams will never thrive if the culture of a business isn’t inclusive.
Thinking about how the logistics sector can evolve and win the talent race - including the retention of a diverse talent pool - comes down to needs and expectations of the current workforce. Can the industry offer flexible working and how would this translate into day-to-day operations? To retain the best talent, this needs to be looked into, especially if your employees have commitments such as school drop off and pick up. This is a key time to consider flexibility across all levels, including blue collar, to ensure that a more diverse talent pool is able to consider logistics as a long-term career.
In addition to this, leaders in the logistics sector need to think about future talent pipelines, not just from a gender perspective, but the total available talent in general. So how can the industry change this? This needs to be addressed at a grassroots level, to include apprenticeships, school leavers and graduates, and ensure the future workforce is aware of the opportunities that a career in logistics can offer.
The expansion of the female workforce could help to bring about a significant impact within the procurement and supply chain sector. To help facilitate this, however, a lot of work needs to be done to change some of the cultures that exclude women in logistics. As highlighted above, studies have indicated that greater numbers of female leaders, including board members, managers, and supervisors, are associated with an improvement in business outcomes. What the industry needs are strong role models and leaders who inspire other women to follow in their footsteps.
If you would like to discuss this topic further, or to find out how we can help improve the diversity of your team, get in touch with your local Michael Page office.