IS there any role for women in Logistics?

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley

women in Logistics

The logistics and supply chain industry is one sector that suffers from poor perceptions of its career opportunities. These perceptions have led to a debate around skill gaps and lack of gender diversity. It is hard to escape the primary idea of lifting and loading goods in logistics industry.

But, this is one sector which cannot be overlooked as every industry and business in the world- retail, life sciences, fashion, technology, construction and so on needs the involvement of logistics. This proves that logistics and supply chain industries not only require drivers and warehouse operatives; there is also a need of business development, customer relationship management and operational efficiency. Therefore it is a great door opening for women which enable them to retain their professional careers within this industry. Careers in logistics have traditionally been held by men, but women are becoming increasingly involved at all levels.

Today, around 30% of women workforces are seen in companies operating in the logistics and supply chain sector. Logistics sector has also become a career opportunity for women as well to build a sound professional career than they have ever been. Only 10% of women are seen in the management level. This sounds very less but an industry where women were not a part off, and have taken their positions in the management is an achievement in itself.

Shabana Khan, Director, Freight Air at DHL Lemuir Logistics, India, who is a member of the national management board joined the company as a trainee. With best of her performances, she managed to get a series of promotions. In her current job, she heads the largest air freight function within India and is a known name in the industry. Gati- Kintetsu Express Pvt Ltd is one of the market leaders in logistics and supply chain industry which is headed by another lady, Ms. Chitra Shinde. Her contribution for the company as well as for the industry is commendable. Ms. Shinde played a key role in introducing the concept of automation in air operations. Her expertise in operations is in process management, change management and automation. Presently she is the President-Director of GATI-KWE.  She is been awarded the ‘ELSC CEO of the year 2013’ under ELSC individual leadership category, ‘Lady Transporter Personality of the Year-2012’ at Mahindra Transport Excellence Awards and ‘Lady Transporter of the year 2012-Regional Winner-South.  Another such lady is Kim Petersen, DHL Global Forwarding’s Network Branch Manager, who went home with the Gold award for ‘Female Employee of the Year’.  Women have also been proving their excellence in the logistics industry.  The stereotypical thoughts of male dominance, safety issues in warehouses are not much thought of grounds for women to slash their opportunities in the logistics and supply chain industry.

Now the industry is trying to create more of Shabana Khan, Chitra Shinde and Kim Petersen in a male-dominated sector. Attracting women to the industry is just half the battle won as they have tried to arrange programs like: work-life balance, gender equality, better career opportunities for women to make the industry more attractive for women to choose as their career option.  The key challenge for the supply chain industry is to address root causes that inhibit the growth of female talent within the industry.  Since women today are prominent in this industry, it needs to develop professional ways in managing their executives. The experience in the industry needs to be refined in such a way that it’s more women friendly than that of the traditional warehousing methods. The management of warehouse system is usually known to be coercive, but with the stepping in of women certain considerations needs to embed.

The logistics and supply chain industry needs to move a step ahead to welcome women. Gender sensitive issues such as women are not rational decision makers or women cannot be at the management levels in this kind of industry will not open the forum for growth for the industry. Open-mindedness and healthy discussion forums for both men and women can take the industry to the next level. The traditional culture of warehouse with no women around did not have very strict communication checks but today professional work place skills needs to be maintained. Change is the policy of growth, so inviting women to the industry is not only beneficial for the industry but also a career opportunity for the women.  Women are equally potential in the corporate world therefore the industries competitiveness significantly depends how it invites and utilizes its female talent. Creating a gender-balanced or women friendly warehouse operation offices are no more a myth  as a lot of women are joining the embryonic logistics industry.

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