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Encouraging a Female Future

Having just celebrated International Women’s Day this month and following the recent news of the partnership between The Women in Logistics UK group (WiL) and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), here at Barnes, we felt that it was an appropriate moment to comment on the current gendered state of affairs within the industry. We are, like many other logistic professionals, confident in stating that the industry is male lead – but whilst we are confident on this matter, we are also disheartened by it, and it is in this piece that we hope to not only raise awareness of the gender disproportion but to ask why this disappointing disparity exists.

As the joint venture between The Women in Logistics UK group and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport was announced, the industry as a whole felt a movement of progression. The partnership, which came into effect on the 1st March, is significant as it allows greater opportunities for women to access support, whilst also allowing them a platform to confidently and safely discuss the issues and challenges that they face in both recruitment and retention. In addition to this, to create an encouraging ambience to the sector, the two bodies hope for it to also be a space to engage, motivate and inspire past, present and future female logistic talents.

Whilst this is a step forward, the road to equality within logistics still stretches ahead, and it is up to us and our industry peers to host conversations that aim to discover how we can continue the journey to a better, and more equal, working environment. In 2013, The Guardian reported that although the transport and logistics sector boasts an employee count of 1.5m, women make up less than a quarter of these numbers. Upon investigation, they offer a plausible proposal as to why; one which we fear may be the reality: poor perceptions.

Despite 2018 being marked as ‘The Year of the Woman’ – a reflection of the progression in the 100 years since women gained the right to vote and a reminder that there is still a way to go – it is thought that many women believe there to be (and have experienced) a glass ceiling within logistics. Whatever gender you may identify as, it is vital to understand and this perspective and the limitations it may pose. On a daily basis, if you deemed the working environment to be overruled by the projection of male stereotype narratives –  “heavy labour is a man’s work” – which lead to suspicions of restrictions in terms of growth, promotions and salaries – why would you enter such an industry?

Jennifer Swain, a logistic and supply chain recruitment expert, offered a thought-provoking piece on LinkedIn, whereby she discussed the reality of female enthusiasm to join the industry in the first instance. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, she had only interviewed three women for logistical positions in seven months; and although this is the experience of a singular company, we suspect that the numbers may not be all that different for other businesses within the industry.

With the key issues identified, the next steps are to tackle them. The WiL and CILT partnership is a fantastic place to start, but we all need to offer the body support by playing our part. To do this, we cannot emphasise the importance of speaking to those affected enough; reach out to your female employees and peers, provide them with a safe space and ask them for an honest conversation on their motivations, challenges, and the ways in which they might feel restricted. Then put these comments into action – address the points raised by continually working together and fighting to improve the working environment for all employees. Once these practices become common place within the logistic and transport industry, the sector will undoubtedly better promote itself – although this is not to say that marketing efforts will not need to be executed in order to reach a greater number of people.

Here at Barnes, we strive for an equal and motivating work space for employees of all genders. As we have commented before, we operate an open-door policy, and we welcome all our colleagues to discuss any matters, regardless of the topic, with us.

If you have any thoughts that you would like to share with us on gender equality within the transport and logistics industry, please get in contact with us via our website or Twitter page.

WOMEN IN LOGISTICS

Despite the fact that there has been an incredible rise of women in the business world, the logistic sector is one of the sectors that remains male dominated.  Only one to two percent of the workforce in the world’s logistics sectors are women, although 125 million people work in this industry.

Although this statistic is less dramatic in the UK, it still remains that less than a quarter of the 1.5million within the logistics industry are female, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

As we all know, the logistics sector plays a crucial role in the world economy. The improvements in the logistics sector, as far as increasing the women workforce, is therefore an important component in the ongoing improvements.

In recent years, some major studies have demonstrated that having more female leaders including board members, managers and supervisors leads to better business outcomes.  Examples of this include higher levels of productivity, safety and improved financial returns, as referenced in the 2009 Women in Supply Chain report.

This insight was supported by the PWC Transportation report, which stated that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least by 16% in return on sales, and by 26% in return on invested capital. These studies make a compelling business case for gender diversity and inclusion.

So if there are such strong evidence that women improve performance, why are we struggling to bring women into the logistics industry and what can be done to help resolve this?

The transport and logistics industry is typically described as a ‘non-traditional’ employment pathway for women and suffers from poor perceptions of its career opportunities for women.  Addressing perceptions that the logistics industry is a career option for all is a real challenge as it’s hard to escape the fact that roles can involve moving and lifting.

We need to focus on the fact that logistics is applicable to every industry and business sector in the world – retail, life sciences, fashion, technology, construction, transport and so on. This means that in addition to needing drivers and warehouse operatives, there’s also a requirement for business development and customer-facing personnel.

Encouragingly, several market developments are creating viable opportunities to include women in ‘non-traditional’ roles in the local and global industry. These include advances in technology such as automatic gearboxes and hydraulic lifting equipment, the retirement of existing workers, increasing levels of education and improved technical training among new entrants in the workforce.

For more information on Women in Logistics, visit the group online (aptly named Women in Logistics!) who will be delivering performance workshops at the group’s annual conference this year.  The organisation, which aims to support the careers of women in logistics, now has more than 3,500 members, and will hold its AGM and annual conference on Friday, 25th November at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire.

For more information on how you can join Barnes Logistics, visit our website or give us a call on 0161 684 3070.