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GUEST COMMENT What it takes for women to thrive in a male dominated industry like logistics?

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Gender diversity is an enabler of business success – something that has been proven time and time again. And although the logistics industry has always been traditionally male dominated, it is certainly no exception to that.

Samantha Holden, chief commercial officer at Yodel

While progress has been made in recent years to level out this imbalance, there’s still more that can be done to not only encourage more female applicants to roles, but better support women already in the industry so they are in the best possible position to thrive in their careers.

Samantha Holden, chief commercial officer at Yodel, asks: What does it take for women to thrive in a male dominated industry like logistics?

Prioritise Early Exposure
The value of early exposure to a range of career paths from a young age is extremely important. If young girls do not have adequate exposure to the variety of roles out there – including those in logistics and transport – it’s hard to fuel the early interest that ladders up to actual career choices. You don’t know what you don’t know!

Introducing logistics roles and sparking interest in them will require a collaborative approach from schools and industry leaders alike. This could include career fairs, workshops, mentorship programmes, talks from female leaders in the space, or logistics-focused competitions and challenges to myth bust what a career in logistics may look like. This will not only help reshape how people view the industry and who can hold such roles, but will shed light on the diverse range of roles on offer – from drivers to planners, engineers, customer service representatives, and other office-based roles.

Tackle Stereotypes in Recruitment and Retention
The first step involves hiring managers looking at their recruitment tactics to ensure they take diversity, equity, and inclusion into account, and encourage fair and unbiased hiring processes.

It’s important to reiterate the value of soft skills. The logistics and transport industry requires diverse skillsets to thrive; hard skills and technical ability alone simply won’t cut it. Analytical skills, customer-facing capabilities, strategic thinking, organisation, communication, and problem solving are just a handful of the soft skills the industry requires.

But it doesn’t stop at the recruitment stage – retention is even more critical in the long term. You need to foster a culture of respect where all colleagues feel confident to voice their opinions and feel like a valued member of the team.

Establishing an environment where women can thrive is also important. While there are many ways to do this, promoting flexible work offerings will be an attractive selling point, while encouraging women internally to put themselves up for promotion and pursue additional training and qualifications will encourage both retention and progression. At Yodel, we’ve partnered with educational establishments to provide Level 3 and Level 5 NVQs to enhance colleagues’ management skills and have seen hundreds of colleagues take advantage of these programmes.  

Offer Networking and Mentorship
Mentorship programmes, employee networks, and industry events can also create a safe space where fellow women in logistics can connect with their peers. Not only does this create a network to lean upon for advice and support, but shining a spotlight on women in leadership roles gives other women who may be earlier in their careers a role model to look up to, too. But remember, men in the industry can also act as valuable allies to advocate for their female colleagues. Personally, I have felt incredibly supported by my male colleagues at Yodel over the years. Such individuals have made sure to share their knowledge with me to help me upskill and develop, and have always had my best interests at heart, thereby helping me succeed.

Championing and celebrating the success of women in the industry through awards and accolades also helps bring more mainstream attention to success stories, while giving women the recognition they deserve. Logistics, as a result, will appear more accessible as a sector, and gives other women in the industry something to strive towards in their own careers. A memorable personal achievement in recent years was being awarded Northern Businesswoman of the Year at the National Businesswomen’s Awards. I hope accomplishments like this will inspire more women to consider entering the sector, and appreciate the career opportunities it has to offer. 

The Takeaways
Giant strides have already been made in making a career in logistics appealing to woman of all ages and backgrounds. But there is still more to be done to frame a career in logistics as aspirational. If we treat gender diversity as a collective responsibility, we can build on the good efforts already made in overturning the industry’s gender imbalance.

Samantha Holden, chief commercial officer at Yodel

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