Female representation is improving across the board, but some areas are improving faster than others. For example, the world of entertainment has made a lot of progress in this area with female-led films becoming standard rather than unusual and female directors and writers starting to gain serious recognition. The world of logistics and packing, however, is still very much male-dominated, at all levels, and clearly this needs to change.
Why are there so few women in logistics?
While it’s only a guess, there’s a very good chance that the lack of women in logistics is a reflection of the history of the industry. Up until relatively recently (in historical terms), the “ground floor” of the logistics industry involved heavy, manual work, hence the more physical strength you had the easier you would find the work (and the quicker you would be able to perform it).
The higher levels of the packing industry typically required some level of education (such as the ability to read, write and count) and the imbalance in education, which is still in the process of being rectified (on a global basis, some countries, including the UK, have largely achieved parity of education, although, again, in historical terms, this is a fairly recent development).
The highest levels of logistics would typically only be open either to those who had worked their way up from within the industry or who had achieved success in another industry and had moved across (or who had very good connections within the industry). This again generally favoured men.
Attracting women to logistics could be essential to filling labour shortages
Figures vary according to study and source, but pretty much everyone seems to agree that there is a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK. Of the drivers that there are, less than 10% of them are female. Logic would, therefore, suggest that attracting women to the trade could go a long way towards addressing the labour shortages of which the industry has long complained.
Logic would also suggest that the industry ought to be making it a priority to reach out to women as quickly and effectively as possible as Brexit is on its way and, regardless of what that brings, there is a constant, natural, turnover of drivers as people retire or just decide to move on and these drivers need to be replaced.
It should also be said that, even without labour shortages in certain areas, there are still huge advantages to encouraging more women into the logistics industry. Most of them revolve around the fact that industries get the best results by employing the best talent and that means recognising that talent is not defined by gender.
What needs to happen to get women into logistics?
Getting women into logistics may not necessarily be a problem. It could be as simple as conducting an effective marketing campaign using well-known strategies. There are even a couple of high-profile role models who could be used to front a campaign, namely Hilary Devey and Nikki King. You might add Carole Walker and Marianne Culver. They do not have the same high profile, but they are women who have held executive positions in logistics.
The more pertinent question might be “what needs to happen to attract women to logistics and keep them there”? There is no point in making the effort to bring women into logistics only for them to leave again after a short time, especially not if a lot of money has been invested in training them. The answer to this question is likely to be a combination of practicalities (like ensuring that there are decent facilities for female workers) and the less tangible (like remember to make women feel recognised for their achievements and valued for their work).