The Future of Women in Logistics
Throughout the history of the industry, men have held the majority of logistics positions. The disproportionate amount of women workers versus men has long served as a deterrent for more women to enter the industry. In recent years, there has been a critical push towards increased diversity and inclusivity, with women being one main focus of the effort.
While 46.8% of the American workforce was made up of women in 2021, the BLS found that women only made up 24.6% of the workforce in the transportation and warehousing industry. More specifically, women accounted for 35% of the warehousing sector, 29.2% of manufacturing, and only 12.6% of the trucking sector. However, the Voice of the Blue Collar Worker Survey revealed that women expressed higher job satisfaction in the logistics industry than their male counterparts. The survey found that only 37% of the women in the industry were actively seeking new roles in 2022, as opposed to 53% of men. Logistics organizations are taking proactive steps towards increasing the contribution of women in the industry and tackling factors that have acted as deterrents for female job seekers in the past, creating a more promising future for women seeking career paths in logistics. What changes are logistics companies making to encourage women not just to enter, but to remain in the industry?
In order to understand how logistics companies are changing the industry for women, we must first look into factors that have historically deterred women from taking on logistics jobs. One challenge women face in the industry is known as being “the only one.” Women are often under an increased sense of pressure in work environments where they are the minority. They may often feel the pressure to work extra hours, worry about perfection, and prove themselves to demonstrate they are as successful as their male counterparts. Women are also faced with the often unconscious bias of “gender role stereotypes.” Roles in logistics management or physical-centered roles such as warehouse positions have been viewed as “male jobs” in the past. Although modern society now acknowledges the importance of gender equality in the workforce, the historical bias of traditional gender roles can still seep into work environments or hiring processes without being noticed. These stereotypes can still present a challenge for women in any industry, either deterring them from applying in the first place, or by influencing hiring processes. The gender wage gap also creates a deterrent for women seeking logistics careers. Essentially, workplace environments in the logistics industry have not commonly been considered gender-inclusive in the past.
Logistics companies have adopted a more proactive approach towards diversifying their workplaces in recent years. Supply chain disruptions such as labor shortages, container shortages, and port congestion exacerbated by the pandemic have acted as a catalyst for rethinking talent in the industry. According to a 2021 survey by Gartner, 74% of logistics companies were prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their hiring efforts; this reflects a shift towards creating opportunities for minorities in the industry, including women. A complete reevaluation of the barriers in the workforce, as well as the factors women job seekers look for, are reshaping a once male-dominated industry to one where women can thrive.
One important factor for success is offering mentors and representation for women seeking careers in the industry. Meredith Singletary, Senior Director of Human Resources at DHL Supply Chain, spoke on the importance of mentors for future female leaders in a 2022 conference. While male coworkers play an important role in sponsoring women in their advancement in management positions and breaking down gender bias, female mentors that can guide and coach new women recruits through their career path at these companies are even more crucial. If logistics companies want to see more women in leadership positions in the industry, it begins with increasing visibility of women leaders to inspire the leaders of the future. Gartner’s 2018 Women in Supply Chain survey found that 60% of industry organizations with goals to increase visibility of women in their workforces had initiatives in place to “recruit, develop, retain, and advance” women in the supply chain; this is a 44% increase from their findings for 2017.
Sharing success stories is one way companies bolster the visibility of the accomplishments of women in logistics. Many organizations, such as Women in Trucking, focus on highlighting the advancement and triumphs of women throughout the trucking industry. Adopting an internal program with these goals creates a more inclusive environment that encourages the advancement of female workers. One organization called the Leading Ladies of Logistix aims to create a community for women in the industry by offering mentorship programs both for individual job seekers and by partnering with organizations looking to increase diversity. They also place a special focus on creating opportunities for Black women in the logistics workforce. The visibility of female leaders in logistics offers inspiration for other female job seekers to break into the industry.
The wage gap is an incredibly important factor to consider for female job seekers. Women are more likely to remain in the industry if their pay is equal to those of their male counterparts early in their careers. Recent data shows the industry is making strides in the right direction. The 2021 Association for Supply Chain Management’s Salary and Career report found that the wage gap has closed for the majority of female employees under the age of 40. For example, the study found that the median salary for women between ages 30 and 39 was $81.5k, with the median salary for men in this age range being $80k. While the wage gap has not been eradicated, this information is promising for women that aim for a long-term career in the logistics industry. Flexibility also is an important factor women job seekers look for. Prologis reports that 21% of men and women combined state that flexibility is a key factor in deciding on applying to a job. Offering flexible schedules, as well as more standardized 8-hour shifts, is a more enticing work-life balance for both men and women.
The future for women in the logistics industry is bright. Harvard Business Review reports predicted growth of over 56,000 logistics jobs in the next decade. Opportunities abound in the logistics industry, especially with the recent labor shortage. As the industry makes a conscious effort to combat the historical factors that pushed women away from logistics positions, visibility of female leaders in all sectors are increasing. A new age of diversity is opening for women and other minorities in the industry as organizations do their part in creating opportunities for everyone.