Nearly 1.5m people work in transport and logistics in the UK. But less than a quarter of these employees are female, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).
The logistics industry also suffers from poor perceptions of its career opportunities, which has led to a debate around skills gaps and a lack of gender diversity.
Addressing perceptions that the logistics industry is a career option for a very specific type of person is a real challenge – it’s hard to escape the antiquated impression that roles primarily involve moving and lifting. What’s more, the industry’s position within the manufacturing sector has, for some, meant that the legacy workforce is more male dominated. But as the competitive landscape changes, delivering for a customer is fast becoming the single most important measure of success.
Logistics permeates 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 with expertise in the industries in which customers operate.
A diverse team of professionals is required to be effective in operations, customer services and finance, and is even important in industry experts. 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. A person’s gender in the logistics industry shouldn’t be an issue. To do a job, and to get the job done in the best way a variety of skills and expertise is required.
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. It’s important to focus on what you can bring to your role that’s currently missing. We should relish diversity. The industry will only be able to attract the right talent and overcome its perception issues by better promoting the scope of opportunities available.
Recently, TNT UK’s managing director, Marianne Culver, delivered a rallying call to women working in traditionally male-dominated industries this week, telling them that the key to success was being resilient, being as business-like about their careers as they are about their jobs and always having a plan B in their back pocket.
Delivering the key note speech at this weeks’ national ‘Advancing Women Academy’, run by Everywoman, Marianne also called on female leaders of the future to regularly find time ‘away from the daily drumbeat’ to reflect on whether they were being developed, stretched and fulfilled, and to build personal career plans to ensure this happened if not.
Everywoman is the UK’s largest network and learning and development platform for women in business and female entrepreneurs. Their industry -themed academy events bring together hundreds of women in, or aspiring to be in, management positions to learn from each other and leading female figures in that sector.
Opening Everywoman’s 2015 Transport and Logistics Academy in Coventry, Marianne provided an inspiring account of her career journey from teaching modern languages in Paris, Vienna and Scotland, to leading TNT UK, via positions all over the globe, where she led and turned around businesses in the high service microelectronics sector.
She admitted that the transport and logistics sector can still be perceived as male-dominated, but called on talented women to be proactive in seizing the many opportunities which do exist to help drive their companies and the wider market forward.
“Diversity and Inclusion play such an important role in creating an open environment where hard work is rewarded, irrespective of an individual’s race, gender or beliefs. My message, not just to talented women, but to talented men as well, is that if you are resilient, authentic and committed, with a relentless focus on building high performing teams to drive high performance, you will always be in demand in this, or any sector.
“I’m proud to be a part of an organisation where all staff are challenged, as well as valued. I am wholeheartedly committed to ensuring that all TNT employees enjoy the same quality of experience and believe that for those talented individuals who are sufficiently determined, there are many exciting opportunities to forge long and successful careers in the transport and logistics industry.”
Only through an emphasis on the sheer variety of skills applicable to the logistics industry can we get away from the outdated, damaging and often insulting notion that logistics and supply chain management is a man’s world consisting merely of heavy lifting. The industry is one which values the skills of each individual and without the diversity brought by a more even gender split, we will be unable to overcome crisis, propel innovation and ultimately, satisfy customers.