The above quote by Charlotte Whitton, the first woman mayor of Ottawa, Canada, carefully sums up the challenges a woman faces in almost every walk of life and her capability to perform any task a notch better as compared to men. There is an evident pressure on women to prove their merit, especially in managerial and corporate roles. The Logistics Industry ain’t any different.
A survey conducted by The ESCAP Transport Division targeting women at top managerial positions in the industry, suggests that the main challenges faced by women in the sector relate to balancing professional and family life within the context of societal expectations.
Udichi Bhattacharya, the Procurement Head at FreightBro, a Digital Platform for Freight Forwarders, is of a similar opinion, “Having a work-life balance that allows women to meet family commitments is still a major hurdle”.
Furthermore, relating to the gender disparity in the industry, she states, “There is not even a dent as it is still quite an old boy’s club. I personally find it intimidating to network in conferences as 90% of attendees are men. In operations, you may find women in trenches but there is an evident lack of women in leadership positions.”
On being asked whether women should consider logistics as a preferred career option, she adds, ”Absolutely. Unfortunately, there is very little awareness among young women about worthwhile careers in logistics.”
With a combined experience of 13 years in the industry, Suneyna Gurtoo, Business Unit Manager at TVS Logistics agrees to the fact that in India acceptance of women in the industry is limited to support functions. Warehousing and distribution still seem closed spheres for women.
She adds, “Another challenge faced while working in core operational areas, that comprises 99% of men, is the resistant attitude towards accepting a female leader. This can be largely attributed to the patriarchal nature of the society we live in.”
Just like every cloud has a silver lining the latest developments and trends of the industry strongly suggest that the gender gap is narrowing gradually. When we think Logistics, we inadvertently think about containers, high-end MHEs, trucks, and MEN because evidently anything related to the industry is labor intensive. And who better than men to do such tasks? Or is it?
Bhairavi Jani, Executive Director, SCA Group puts it across very clearly., “When I saw women, in our warehouses, operate complex MHEs such as a very narrow aisle machine, I knew that the gender divide in the logistics industry was coming to its end.” This proves that even the most labor-intensive sections of this vast industry is gradually accepting the change.
At Air Cargo India 2018, Vandana Aggarwal, Economic Adviser, Ministry of Civil Aviation, said that the government is committed to making logistics an industry that encourages women to reap the benefits of the job increase that is projected to rise from 22 million to 40 million by 2020.
Arundhati Sinha, Deputy Manager, Air Freight at Kuehne Nagel says “In my 9 years of experience in a hardcore operational role I believe choosing a career in Logistics and Supply Chain Management for women is absolutely challenging yet fulfilling. Large players such as DHL and Kuehne Nagel have seen a considerable surge in the number of women joining the industry. However, the disparity in pay scales still remains a major concern.”
It is an undeniable fact that women are inherently good at multitasking, better negotiators, easier to approach and are meticulous in professional commitments. Conducive work environments, better skill development programs within organizations and women-friendly policies come as a welcome change in encouraging women to climb up the corporate ladder.
In the wake of emerging e-commerce platforms and an increasing need for logistics companies to be more tech-enabled and provide digitized services there are a plethora of job opportunities waiting to be explored.
It takes courage for women to strive in an environment dominated by men and it takes acceptance for men to welcome a collaborative partnership where we work together, undeterred by what our genders are to achieve our goals.
Even Cargo, an e-commerce delivery company, founded by social entrepreneur Yogesh Kumar, has only women delivering packages of its clients that include Vajor, Clovia and Flyrobe, among others, in Delhi.
Apart from women-friendly HR and recruitment policies positive steps taken by introducing flexible working hours, onsite childcare and other work-life balance initiatives, new and digitally innovative logistics firms are enabling involuntary inclusion of women in their major taskforce where merit and skills are overpowering the gender of the roles.
Mohammed Zakkiria, Co-Founder of FreightBro, strongly vouches for the fact that gender inclusivity in organizations shouldn’t really be something that needs an additional effort. “With women acquiring necessary qualifications and skills in the domain and inherent management acumen, are bound to excel and grow within the industry.”
With 39.6% of workforce comprising of women, FreightBro looks forward to positively increasing the share and creating gender-neutral avenues for all.
With the likes of Sandhya Suri, one of the first Indian Woman Naval Officers to serve on a Warship, Dr. Malini Shankar, Director General Shipping, Tulsi Mirchandaney, MD of India’s first cargo airline, there is definitely no dearth of inspirations that we can draw from and encourage our girls to choose the less trodden path in the world of Logistics.