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Diversity in Logistics: The Role of Women

There's no doubting the many advantages women in logistics can bring. 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. 

This is a man's world

Recent surveys suggest that globally the number of women participating in the industry is as low as 20% to 30%. A recent PWC report also highlighted that less than 10% of employees in management positions in the transportation and logistics industry are women.

Certainly some of the jobs where labour shortages are most pressing – like truck drivers – remain heavily male-dominated. There are controversial societal issues in recruiting women to these positions in the minds of some. Long-distance truck driving often means sleeping alone in the cab at un-policed lay-bys or service stations at night, for example. However, this alone is not the reason for such a lack of diversity across the entire sector.

The historical lack of women in logistics could be due to a misconception that career paths were limited or a simple stereotype that the industry only provided "jobs for men". When people think of logistics companies, most people still think of the drivers we see every day delivering our parcels, many of which are men. This misunderstanding is in part due to a lack of education and visibility as well as management complacency and a failure to promote a more inclusive career for all.

But, it wouldn't be nothing without a woman or a girl

There are signs that the tide is slowly turning, with more women expressing an interest in moving towards a career in logistics and the supply chain. Research demonstrates that improving the proportion of women leads to higher financial returns to logistics companies.

Considerable progress has been made in all areas of gender equality within the workplace. Businesses across the UK have implemented Diversity, Equity & Inclusion teams and strategies too, helping ensure more inclusive recruitment practices and outlining their commitments to building a more diverse pipeline of talent across all levels.

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.

Moving forward

In today’s digital world brimming with eCommerce opportunities, the scope of careers in logistics is much broader across a variety of departments. More and more of the world's favourite brands are incorporating same day delivery options, while corporate organisations are welcoming the digital transformation across their supply chain.

The industry should continue to highlight the diverse range of roles available and how these could increase as the digital transformation engulfs the supply chain.

Just hiring more women isn’t enough. Companies need to make sure that there is sufficient career progression. That may mean taking a hard look at work-life balance issues, since more women are juggling work and family commitments.

Professional development and mentoring programmes can help women get their share of promotions to management. Participation in industry-wide networking forums could also help. The commitment to creating a more diverse workforce should go right to the top levels of the C-suite.

Senior women executives serve as important role models for more junior staff, and can help in recruiting more talented women too.

Research has shown that companies with more women board directors outperform their less diverse peers. Companies with the most women board directors outperform those with the least by 16% in return on sales. Results are even better when you consider return on invested capital; the companies with the most women board directors outperform companies with the least by an impressive 26%. Credit: PWC.

A comparison of the results of women in logistics, from PwC research

Avoid "diversity, for the sake of it"

Diversity is a positive thing with great benefits for the logistics and supply chain sector. But, management must be truly invested in embracing diversity through cultural change, rather than creating a simple box-ticking exercise.

In summary, numerous scientific studies have shown that gender diversity in the workforce not only fosters collaboration, understanding, and tolerance, but also boosts competitiveness, productivity, and corporate social responsibility.

Individuals must be hired based on their merit, not their gender. The work must be done across the industry as a whole, highlighting the huge range of opportunities available in logistics for women.

Attracting a more diverse range of applicants in the first place will inevitably lead to a more diverse workforce.

Our future articles will involve other industry figures, covering areas of diversity in logistics and the supply chain such as age, race and education.

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