Logistics and supply chain sector has long been seen as male-dominated industry. Physical labours such as forklifting, shipping, delivery, packing, etc. sure require extra energy that women might not possess. Owing to this reason, diversity management will continue to be a marginal strategic issue in transportation and logistics. The industry will fall short of taking full advantage of the significant benefits that gender and cultural diversity can offer.
According to James Pickford in his book Mastering Management 2.0, within the last decade, the workforce of many companies has undergone a fundamental transformation. The new reality is a highly diverse workforce composed of employees from many countries and cultures. Diversity is not limited to cultural background. Men and women of all ages and social situations are now working together – but it’s not always easy. The sheer number of dimensions along which employees differ along with the need to achieve both consistency and diversity could pose real challenges for many companies. That’s why, managing diversity has gotten so much attention in recent years.
Human resource professionals are directly responsible for some elements of managing diversity. Many have found that rather than being a disadvantage, it can actually be an important organisational strength. Indeed, there’s actually a strong business case for diversity and it has helped companies access a new labour pool and enhances a company’s reputation and image. In many cases, interactions between diverse employees can also spark creativity and improve innovation efforts.
While some companies already employ staff from different cultural backgrounds and diverse age groups, compared to other sectors, transportation and logistics remains largely male-dominated. The McKinsey survey suggests that the number of women participating in the industry is at 56 percent globally, with less than 20 percent is in C-suite roles. However, there are good signs that numbers could go up substantially in the future as more women are studying logistics too.
Some experts agree that female thinking will enrich and enlarge the set of managerial options and female leaders might inspire other female employees. A high percentage of women have also held highly qualified and related academic positions which could be another differentiator in a male-dominated role.
Certainly, there are some jobs where labour shortages are most pressing – like truck drivers and seafarers – which make it heavily male-dominated. Such that there are real issues in recruiting women to these positions. Long-distance truck driving often means sleeping alone in the cab at un-policed rest stops at night, while women looking to join a ship’s crew are confronted with an extremely masculine environment. Indeed, women seafarers might even face sexual harassment or the assumption that they are incompetent. Companies that develop ways to address these concerns, for example, by training female drivers on rest-stop safety or improving conditions for women on-board ship, might be able to tap into an important new talent pool.
In short, simply getting more women in the team isn’t enough. Companies need to make sure that they can survive and advance through the ranks too. That might mean taking a hard look at work-life balance issues, since more women are juggling work and family commitments.
Better results. Research demonstrates that improving the proportion of women leads to higher financial returns to logistics companies. That’s why transportation and logistics companies need to take a serious look at how they are implementing gender diversity initiatives. 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 should go right to the top levels of the C-suite. More senior women serve as important role models for more junior staff, and can help in recruiting more talented women too. And again, they can help the bottom line.
Transportation and logistics companies should encourage cultural diversity and promote women at all levels of the company. Making sure to appoint women to top jobs in the C-suite can have a significant impact, by setting the right tone and providing important role models for women throughout the organisation.