Women in Logistics: Attracting diverse talent for organisational results
The Australian Transport and Logistics (T&L) industry impacts on nearly every other industry in the country. Australia is not only an extremely large, but also geographically isolated country meaning there are great distances between us and many of our key trading partners and international markets. The movement of goods through local supply chains is central to Australia’s ability to compete in international markets and against imports into the domestic market.
As one of the most important industries to the Australian economy, the local T&L sector is estimated to employ nearly 1.2 million people.* Despite its size however, the industry is still greatly underrepresented by females. Alarmingly, a recent paper called ‘The Unseen Gender In Transport and Logistics’ developed by the Women in the Supply Chain organisation found that, ‘Women’s participation in the industry has declined from 24 per cent in 2009 to 22.9 per cent in 2014 when over the same period the growth in the T&L industry rose by 58 per cent.’**
Although great efforts are being made to offer increased support and address issues of diversity from organisations like the ‘Transport Women of Australia Limited’ and ‘Women in Supply Chain’, the local T&L sector has long suffered from misconceptions around career opportunities for females. In fact, jobs in the T&L industry don’t necessarily require the applicant to have to sit behind the wheel of a semi-trailer for 12 hours a day, or spend their waking hours walking around with a hardhat and hi-vis vest on.
Logistics permeates just about every business sector you can imagine; from retail to fashion, technology to healthcare, construction to local government and so on. This means that jobs offered in the sector are not just limited to drivers or warehouse operatives, but there is also a requirement for business development and customer-facing personnel with expertise in T&L.
Not unlike other large organisations, the roles available to women in the T&L sector are varied. Many women who work in the T&L sector can find that their days are spent working with, or managing a diverse team of professionals in customer service, warehouse or on-the-road operations, customer service and finance.
A balanced, diverse workforce is not just good for the people that work within an organisation, but also for the organisation itself. Diversity and inclusion are fast becoming priority agenda items for T&L organisations as their leadership teams gain awareness, become better informed and ultimately buy-in to the business case for a diverse workforce. This might include greater productivity and innovation, increased financial returns, or reduced staff attrition. When it comes to women working in the logistics sector, Nola Bransgrove, Chairperson of ‘Women in the Supply Chain’, commented: ““More and more of Australia’s transport and logistics companies would reap the benefits of employing women and using their skills, experience and leadership.”**
One of the key focuses for T&L organisations operating in a traditional male-centric industry should be to revisit the way their business attracts and retains female talent. Actions that companies can take to attract greater levels of employment interest from females include the roll-out of gender neutral job descriptions and job advertisements. Businesses should also look to pilot initiatives such as gender blind CVs, unconscious bias training and a formal mentoring program for diverse talent.
While many T&L organisations have sought to make their working environments – from corporate head office, to the warehouse distribution centres themselves – more accommodating for female workers; to help change wider societal impressions of the industry, it is important there is an ongoing focus on hiring women in prominent positions so that they have a platform to inspire and encourage other women into the industry.
Today, those females looking to pursue a career in logistics are encouraged to focus on what professional goals they want to achieve and how they can add value to the business that they work for. Caroline Bosch, Pacific HR Director at Honeywell said:
It is vital for local logistics businesses to ensure their workforce reflects the diverse communities where they live and work, as well as the customers they serve. Like many other organisations, logistics businesses face challenges in moving away from traditional approaches to diversity and inclusion, which have traditionally been human resources led, and instead embracing leadership accountability. Best practice tells us that diversity and inclusion should be owned by the leadership team as a strategic imperative. Human Resources can then be leveraged to facilitate and support the strategy, with the business leaders at the coal face acting as ambassadors for change to ensure ongoing traction and progress.
Actions which aim to attract, retain and support female workers should not operate in isolation. It is important that local T&L organisations realise that this is just the starting point of what should be a much broader and integrated diversity program that is built into their company’s short and long term objectives. This ensures that organisations are able to realise the full potential and value of a balanced and diverse workforce.
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