Commentary

Interview: Why there should be more Women in Logistics

Last week DHL Supply Chain was revealed as the only logistics firm to be included in The Times’ Top 50 Employers for Women league table, so what can be done to encourage more women to join the industry? We spoke to Ruth Waring, founder of Women in Logistics UK and managing director of Labyrinth Logistics Consulting, to find out.

Although DHL Supply Chain was the only logistics firm to be named in the Top 50 Employers for Women league table from the Times recently Ruth Waring, founder of Women In Logistics UK and managing director of Labyrinth Logistics Consulting, says it’s more about visibility than numbers. “There are actually quite a few women in logistics, we estimate around 20% of the workforce in this sector are women, but only around 10% have managerial roles or above,” she says.

Waring runs industry body Women In Logistics, a networking group that provides role model biographies for members, a mentoring scheme and awards and is actively promoting the role of women in the industry.

“It’s not a lack of numbers, it’s a lack of visibility. On the driving side only 1-2% of commercial drivers are women but this is improving all the time,” she says.

She says the stereotype of the role can be off-putting but is no longer relevant. “Women tend to be put off logistics by long hours and a macho working culture but this is largely outdated,” she says.

Others can learn from the likes of DHL, she says. “I think DHL has made diversity one of its key recruitment pillars and worked hard on the internal culture. I doubt it is perfect, but they are certainly making an effort. They won Women in Logistics UK’s Company of the Year award three years ago and also have an internal networking group for women and help to foster better attitudes to women in the organisation,” she says.

But for the industry as a whole to attract more women culture has to change, says Waring. “Men have to have some sort of inkling what it is like to work in the vast minority – it is not a comfortable place to be. So make women welcome with small gestures, talk to them, engage on subjects other than football/rugby, have pictures of women around, flowers, nice toilets, clean kitchens…then recruit with women in mind,” she says.

“Move away from the old “presenteeism” model and standard ways of working – think what could suit working mums for example. Make an effort. Stop “lads of dads” recruitment too,” she says.

And the same is true for retaining them as well, according to Waring. “Look after them, including having good approaches to maternity leave – the great taboo for some reason. Make sure they know their contribution is valued and welcomed. Don’t rely on internal informal networking where men tend to be chummier with the senior manager because they can go for a drink with them or rib them about their football team. Communication is the key,” she says.

And she urges the industry to remember the contribution that women can bring to a business. “We are fantastic multitaskers, we have great people skills and are often good at languages, which is important for international trade,” she says. “Women can add a different dimension and we all know that companies with women on boards make more money,” she says

Find out more about Women in Logistics by visiting www.womeninlogistics.org.uk,  search for the organisation’s Linkedin group or email membership@womeninlogistics.org.uk.