Logistics has long been seen as a male-dominated space, despite efforts to change this. However, professionals in the sector that opportunities continue to grow year on year, and the opportunities in logistics continue to grow year on year for female talent.
Last week, PageGroup were proud to sponsor the Diversity award at the Chartered Institute of Logistics Awards for Excellence event. Diversity in logistics is critical to performance, and businesses need to be doing more in order to broaden their talent pools and attract a more diverse range of candidates if they want to drive growth in 2022.
To learn more about opportunities for women in the logistics sector , Laura Frost, Business Manager at Michael Page Logistics was recently hosted for a Q&A by the team at Parcel & Postal Technology. In this insightful session, Laura shared her insights into the current state of diversity in the logistics landscape, what businesses can be doing to support female talent, and more.
Here are some of the key highlights from her interview:
Q: How has the split between male and female employees in logistics changed over the past 25 years?
Laura: “The past 25 years has seen significant changes across all sectors, and particularly in the logistics industry we’ve seen roles and perceptions continually change and develop. The lines have become more and more blurred when it comes to the “typical” male and female roles of days gone by, and it’s certainly become more balanced across the board. That said, with nearly 1.5 million people working in the transport and logistics industry (according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills) and less than a quarter of those being made up of female workers, there’s certainly still some way to go in order to make the industry more equal when it comes to gender.”
Q: Why do you think there is still a disparity between the number men and women in the logistics workplace?
Laura: “There are a few elements that are likely to be drivers of disparity between men and women in the industry. Firstly, there is still a perception around the lack of flexibility within the industry, especially for working parents and those with caring responsibilities - which may put off those who are primary carers. Then there’s the idea that logistics is still a typically male-dominated industry with roles that are more suited to men as opposed to women, for example labour intensive and very hands-on.
Additionally, there can still be a stigma attached to logistics in that it’s not always seen as a “career of choice” – but more of a first job, or temporary or part-time solution.
These are all issues that the logistics industry has been working hard to challenge and fix employers understand that the industry could significantly benefit from a more diverse workforce.”
Q: Which roles are more likely to attract women to logistics, and why? Are there roles more suited to women, or would you say all genders are able to do all roles?
Laura: “All roles within the logistics industry are open to and suitable for all regardless of gender. Naturally, different circumstances can add complexities, for example primary carers of children or those with dependants may find it difficult to struggle shift work – which many logistics roles are likely to be.
That said, lots of companies have implemented new shift patterns and part-time working such as ‘weekend shifts’, and adapted hours to work around caring responsibilities. This type of flexibility could open up opportunities for families and unlock potential candidates who may have once thought that a career in logistics couldn’t work for them.”
Q: What can employers do to attract more women to more diverse roles – what are the main things women look for in employment? Are these different to men?
Laura: “In general, I think men and women ultimately look for the same benefits from their employment – though needs differ on a personal case by case basis. We are seeing that, on the whole, showing that you can move with the times when it comes to flexible working patterns is key to attracting a diverse workforce, especially if employees have caring responsibilities or live with a disability or health condition.
Job applicants are more likely to want to apply for a role if they can see people with similar lifestyles already working there. One way that companies could make this information available is to offer case studies from female employees at all levels, who would describe their experience of working there and the support they have received in progressing their career to date.
Ultimately, leaders in the logistics industry need to think about future talent pipelines and ways that they can attract diverse talent in the future, not just from a gender perspective but in every area. A key way to address this is to highlight the benefits of a career in logistics at a grassroots level by offering information and examples to school leavers, graduates and those undertaking apprenticeships - ensuring that the future workforce is aware of the opportunities and benefits that a career in logistics can offer.”
Q: Which logistics companies do you think have been proactive/successful in attracting more women to their company and why?
Laura: “There are a number of companies working really hard to address the number of females applying for logistics roles. A good example is Wincanton, who have recently run a successful campaign to attract a more gender diverse workforce by highlighting a number of female case studies within the business with videos, testimonies and interesting stats and data points.
Other examples are FedEx, who launched the UK’s Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) last year, and DHL, who have launched a global agenda around D&I within their business to tackle the misperceptions around typical logistics roles.”
Q: What benefits are there for companies who employ more women – what do women bring to the table?
Laura: “Numerous scientific studies have shown that gender diversity in the workforce not only fosters collaboration, diversity of thought, understanding and tolerance, but also boosts professional competitiveness, productivity and increased corporate social responsibility.
Other studies have shown that greater numbers of female leaders, including board members, managers and supervisors, are associated with improvement in business outcomes.”
Q: What advice do you have for logistics companies looking to improve their gender balance – what are the main things to consider?
Laura: “One approach that can attract and retain female talent is to establish employee networks. Networks like this will enable inspiring women to share their experiences and learn from one another, which in turn helps support career progression and development. By establishing support, development and mentoring networks, companies will be championing, increasing, advancing and retaining the number of females at all levels.
It’s also worthwhile for organisations to look at how they can be more creative when it comes to finding and hiring those with the required experience. Instead of trying to attract talent from competitors and other logistics companies, widening the net to attract female talent from other industries where they have transferable skills may provide a significantly larger and more gender diverse talent pool to choose from.
Additionally, it is crucial that the logistics industry creates internal initiatives such as D&I and female forums, which will help develop in-house talent and cultivate skills from inside of the business to support the career development of all individuals.
Ultimately, the logistics industry will only be able to attract the right talent and overcome perceptions of being a male dominated environment by better promoting the scope of opportunities available for each and every employee. The industry should relish and fully embrace the diversity of skills that will help it strengthen business resilience, propel innovation and continue to meet the ever-changing needs of the customer.”
Q: Where do you see the industry in 25 years’ time? Do you think we’ll have equality by then?
Laura: “I strongly believe that we’ll see a huge shift over the next 25 years, but there is certainly more work that we need to be doing in order to facilitate this. With big changes set to occur in technology, innovation and automation, the logistics industry will transform significantly and so will the required demands and roles. This may challenge the ways of working that we are used to seeing within the industry, and could turn it on its head when it comes to gender equality and out of date perceptions that we know are simply not true.”
If you would like to discuss how we can help source talented logistics professionals to your business, get in touch with your local Michael Page Logistics team today.