Women in Logistics.

Blog Post by Claire Kerr

In 2013, the Guardian ran a story about women in logistics, lamenting the fact that, in the industry, only a quarter of employees were women. Without any more recent figures, it’s likely that, six years later, the story is much the same. So, it seems that the supply chain industry struggles to reach an equitable gender balance. But why is that?

Why aren’t there more women in logistics?

Logistics, warehousing and distribution are traditionally male-dominated industries. But so are industries like construction, engineering and software development. And all of these have managed to change the perceptions and to attract more women.

So why has the same not happened in the logistics industry?

Perhaps it’s the overriding perception that logistics is all about lorries, shifting boxes from one place to another, and getting down and dirty in the warehouse.

Even so, that’s just a gender stereotype. But it seems that these stereotypes are hard to break down, and the fact that they persist does nothing to help the cause. Women working in the industry will recognise some of the experiences that don’t change the status quo, like warehouse visits where the high-vis gear and safety helmets only come in large sizes.

The lack of female role models doesn’t help either. You don’t find many women on boards of companies, let alone at the helm, in the supply chain sector. So the male-domination endures, with few women able to break through the glass ceiling.

But, it’s encouraging to see that the landscape is changing – albeit slowly. Although the numbers are still small, more women are being appointed to senior positions, and only recently a woman was appointed as chair of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA). Having more female mentors and role models like this is good for our industry.

Changing the balance: encouraging more women to work in logistics.

Thanks to the explosion of online shopping, logistics is a rapidly growing sector. The resulting global skills shortages have only served to highlight that one solution would be to encourage more women to enter the industry.

Addressing this gender imbalance in logistics is something that the UK’s The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) is working on. With a membership nearing 4,000, the organisation’s Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) group aims to attract women into the industry and support them. They seek to promote a broader diversity agenda and help women in the industry with networking opportunities and professional development. By showcasing the achievements of women in the sector, they seek to inspire other women.

The benefits of gender diversity in the workforce

It’s nice to see the industry doing more to help businesses benefit from female talent. According to McKinsey, greater gender diversity in executive teams leads to better profitability. That in itself has to be one of the most powerful reasons to encourage more equitable gender distribution in logistics.