© Andrii Yalanskyi

The logistics industry needs more women.

As a female leader, it’s never been more clear to me that diversity produces stronger teams, more creativity and more diverse perspectives – and that’s exactly what organisations in this industry would be wise to pursue.

As logistics managers look to cost reduction and customer experience as the biggest drivers of innovation, a strong, flexible team with varied perspectives will be best placed to understand these needs, deliver innovative solutions, and drive business success.

The traditional masculine image of the industry still limits diversity in many aspects and stages of careers: promotions, job applications, university study, and even the academic subjects young women choose to study while at school. Improving diversity in the industry overall will therefore require a multi-faceted approach to tackle challenges from classroom to boardroom.

Crucially, it’s not women that need to change. It’s the industry. Below, I outline why, and what organisations can consider to improve diversity in the logistics industry.

Progress in diversity has taken place before my eyes

Many of my core beliefs about diversity in the logistics industry stem from my own experience over the past 15 years. They prove that changes can empower teams, but also that this is possible.

When I started in the logistics industry, there was no space for a ‘diversity and inclusion’ agenda. As a woman, I stood out, and it heavily influenced the way I was treated. More than once, I was told to “pop the kettle on, love”.

The easiest way to divert attention away from my gender and onto the quality of my work was to adapt how I acted – to become like the male colleagues who surrounded me. Though this may have helped me to fit in with the existing environment, it certainly didn’t encourage its people to change.

However, I’ve found that one of the greatest ways to encourage diversity in any industry is by example. I was lucky enough to have a female manager – an extremely rare role model in the industry at the time. And she was tough. I learned both how to get on with my role, and how to get over the unnecessary comments.

Through her demonstration that women could belong in this environment, I began to carve out a place for myself, and not the version that had to act masculine to fit in. Other women like me did the same. Years later, I now lead a far more diverse team, and we continue to work hard to help ensure that everyone is free to be who they are. Sure, I still make tea for my team – but only when I decide to.

The industry will benefit from a deliberate effort to change

Far beyond simply meeting quotas, increased diversity can actively strengthen supply chain organisations. Organisations looking to bolster their supply chain offering and create greater resilience ought to seriously consider looking to female talent. Let’s explore why.

BluJay research shows that 75% of supply chain managers expect to make moderate to extreme changes to their operations due to the pandemic, enabling them to become more resilient. More women in the transport industry means improved decision-making, creativity and innovation, according to a 2018 European Commission study. Another study notes that more diverse teams have a vast impact on the organisation’s ability to attract top talent, improve employee satisfaction and decision-making and boost customer orientation.

However, women may not apply for supply chain jobs without indication that the industry is equipped to support their talent, as well as their life choices.

A deliberate commitment to female progress is important. This means making female leaders powerful and visible to build on positive figures of growth, year on year, in female logistics leadership. The EC study also states that in male-dominated professions, the work to bring more female talent into candidate pools must start earlier than the application process.

Organisations may want to consider reaching into educational organisations as the vanguard for more systematic curriculum change, positioning the supply chain as open and welcoming to women in order to spark consideration in young female minds.

How logistics companies can empower women in the supply chain workforce

Diversifying the supply chain workforce could be the most impactful business move executives make in a generation. But it takes effort. Here’s how one supply chain organisation has been making change happen for their teams.

BluJay Solutions has taken that critical first step: making a commitment to growing and empowering its female workforce. The BluJay Women’s Network is integral to this, placing a deliberate focus on enabling women to connect and support one another in a safe space. Open to both female and male members, it is proof of a core value at the company: to keep an open and respectful mindset. Its discussions allow women to feel truly welcome in the supply chain industry and equipped to use their talents to full capacity.

The Emerging Leaders Programme at BluJay is a mentoring scheme where more senior members share their experience and guidance with up-and-coming leaders. This support mirrors that which I received from my first manager, so naturally I am delighted to see this proven technique being officially deployed at BluJay.

It’s fantastic to see the uptake by so many leaders who wish to share their expertise with diverse cohort of mentees, of which the majority chosen so far have been female. It all makes BluJay a company for which I am proud to work.

Thoughtful programmes like these are great choices when you consider that, according to research, only 17% of chief supply chain officers are women. Having a clear view of diversity within the organisation and identifying key areas to improve can help to guide meaningful changes. With those statistics, context and local knowledge are imperative to facilitate a sensitive roll-out of any diversity initiative.

Top-down leadership on diversity issues is important, but these schemes work best when employees at all levels feel encouraged to promote an inclusive culture in their regions.

The greatest supply chain trend in a generation

The benefit for businesses to open up their processes to empower women is huge, diversifying the pool for leadership, introducing new skills and creating stronger, more flexible teams.

But the supply chain industry may only see an increase in women applying for roles, progressing through the ranks and leading from the front if diversity is prioritised internally. Understanding how women can boost the supply chain to obtain its most critical goals gives far greater impetus to empower women, enable them and provide opportunities for them to succeed without compromising their own choices and individuality.

If there’s one supply chain movement that’s fully worth signing up to, it’s this one. 

Sian Hopwood is based in the UK. Prior to her current role providing strategic leadership and effective management of the overall performance of BluJay’s Global ‘Local Business Units’, Sian managed BluJay’s UK B2B operations. 

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