Women in logistics: there's more to the industry than just moving and lifting
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 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.
As a woman working in the sector, a few of my experiences have highlighted this: health and safety gear being produced in large sizes; I've felt that having shorter hair would make for easier compliance; and I've had to manage plenty of quick changes out of tights and into socks and steel-toed boots. These are small things, but considerations that sometimes make wardrobe decisions longer in the morning. I won't opt to wear a skirt or dress on the days I know I'm in the warehouse.
When I first started in logistics, I was more conscious of being female than I am now. I once noticed at an internal meeting that, aside from the HR rep, I was the only female present. I wondered at the time if this was likely to be a regular occurrence. 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.
I manage a diverse team of professionals in operations, customer services, finance and even industry experts. My typical day is full of meetings with customers, my team or the company as a whole to ensure we're moving in the right direction.
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.
For me, being a woman in the logistics industry isn't an issue. I have always believed that I'm in a role to do a job, and to get the job done you need variety in the skills and expertise of the team. I can see why the industry may seem daunting to some, but it's important to understand that current perceptions of the industry aren't always accurate.
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. I've been guilty of looking at a role of thinking "what can't I do?" but 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.
Author: Melanie Hall
Source: The Guardian