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Careers in Logistics: Meet 3 women breaking stereotypes in the logistics industry

Woman discusses logistics plan with colleague in a warehouse

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Logistics is at the heart of modern life. It’s well-stocked supermarket shelves, the provision of vital medical supplies, complex global trade networks and everything in-between.

Despite how integrated logistics is in everyday life, 90% of the UK has never considered a career in logistics, according to a survey conducted by Generation Logistics.

A career in logistics can offer career stability, training and progression as well as competitive salaries. In this article, SheCanCode sat down with three women breaking stereotypes in the logistics industry, to talk about what an average working day looks like, how we can encourage more women into the industry and their advice for others who are thinking about a career in logistics.

MEGAN CHARLTON, GRADUATE ASSOCIATE AT GXO

MEET MEGAN CHARLTON, GRADUATE ASSOCIATE AT GXO

Megan is a graduate associate at GXO, currently working on an exciting company integration project. She’s keen to break the stereotype that logistics is a male dominated industry, and advises that there is so much to logistics than many first think.

Could you talk us through what your ‘day-to-day’ life looks like?

At the moment I am working on an acquisition, so GXO Logistics who I work for have acquired Clipper Logistics. I am part of the project team working on integrating the 2 companies.

Day to day I spend a fair amount of time in meetings, we have 12 workstreams which span across all business functions so this includes Finance, HR, Health and Safety, Procurement and Compliance just to name a few. We have plans in place for each of these workstreams to integrate with the Clipper side of the company. In my role as Project Analyst, I organise meetings, update the RAID log with any risks and issues which come about.

I also coordinate between teams to get the right people speaking to one another using contacts at GXO and Clipper to ensure the right information is found.

I manage our SharePoint site, as there has been lots of sharing of files as well as sensitive data so it is my responsibility to make sure the right people have access to the right files. 

What skills are important for a career in logistics?

It is important to have good communication skills, often in logistics you are speaking to so many different people with different knowledge bases, so you need to adapt your communication style according to the audience

It is important to have good problem-solving skills. This is because a plan can’t always be implemented exactly as it has been set out, so it is important to be flexible and face any unexpected issues as they rise with confidence.

For anyone who may be unsure on where to start, I’d recommend checking out Generation Logistics’ website, which offers a view of the different job families across the industry. 

What are some untrue stereotypes of logistics?

I think logistics is thought of as a warehouse often of males, picking boxes onto trollies and then HGV drivers, transporting the goods from warehouse to store – and there is so much more to logistics than that, there are many females in driving jobs, and in operational roles such as shift managers and transport managers. As well as a lot of central based roles such as in finance and HR which also play an important part of the industry 

Do you have any advice from what you’ve learnt on your career journey?

My biggest advice would be to be flexible and always open to change. It is a fast-paced environment and an ever-growing industry, there are new challenges to face daily, and you need to be flexible enough to adapt yourself accordingly.

What would you say to women who are thinking about a career in logistics?

Just go for it! Although it is still currently a male dominated sector there are so many more women getting into logistics, there are so many varied roles and areas for you to be involved in you are bound to find something you enjoy. 

How do you think we could encourage more women into the industry?

We need more education in what logistics is, it isn’t just a noisy, cold warehouse, but I think there needs to be promotion of the exciting opportunities available for everybody and show that there are career paths to develop and grow. We need to encourage more women into the industry in Leadership roles to try and reduce the gender imbalance that currently exists.

Generation Logistics is highlighting the many roles and departments that are available within logistics, that sit far outside of the stereotypes! If you’re unsure which path to take, have a go of the Find Your Future quiz which will be able to point you in the right direction!

JESSICA ACKERS, CUSTOMS GRADUATE AT KUEHNE + NAGEL

MEET JESSICA ACKERS, CUSTOMS GRADUATE AT KUEHNE + NAGEL

Jessica joined Kuegne + Nagel on their graduate scheme. She enjoys the diverse nature of her role in logistics and feels positive about the many development opportunities available to her. Always keen to grow, Jessica encourages other new entrants to take up any opportunity they can.

Could you talk us through what your ‘day-to-day’ life looks like?

I’m currently part of a graduate scheme, which means my typical day to day tends to be different from a standard role. Currently I’m working within the proactive management team here at Kuehe+Nagel, who use known timings for processes to ascertain when there is an issue within the shipment process prior to being informed. Once I’m made aware of an issue by the system, I will reach out to the corresponding depot overseas to confirm the issue and then act as a conduit to link different departments within the company and ensure the right information is provided to get the shipment moving again. Typically, I work with two systems, our transport management system and our internal communication system, to enable me to speak with the overseas depots. I deal with a range of issues from missing paperwork, customs issues to refused deliveries. This has been a great role to help me understand the broad range of diversity within a shipments life cycle.

What skills are important for a career in logistics?

I think time management and good communication are two of the most important skills you need for a career in logistics. Regardless of which department you work in you will be communicating with internal or external customers to provide a service. Ensuring they feel listened to and kept up to date is key. The logistics sector can also be quite unpredictable where we have had to adapt to a few major changes over the last few years (Brexit being the big one!). Being able to cope with uncertainty and change is a key attribute.

What are some untrue stereotypes of logistics?

Some untrue stereotypes of logistics would be that to work in logistics you will only be in a warehouse or a truck driver. Although these roles are an integral part to the operation, logistics offers a wide range of roles that anyone can be involved in.

Do you have any advice from what you’ve learnt on your career journey?

My best piece of advice from my career journey would be to say yes to every opportunity. You learn your biggest lessons when you are pushed outside your comfort zone. When I first joined the company, I was asked to train and manage a team of 15 people in a brand-new process, which I was learning for the first time. Although I was very nervous as I had never trained or managed people before, I said yes because I thought I might never get this opportunity in the scheme again. Now looking back, I can say it was one of my favourite parts of the graduate scheme.

What would you say to women who are thinking about a career in logistics?

To any women thinking of a career in logistics I would say don’t listen to the stereotypes. There are a huge amount of opportunities and roles within logistics in all sectors. You can work in HR, Finance, Sustainability or even continuous improvement. There is a role to suit everyone. More of these can be found on the Generation Logistics’ website, a campaign which is raising awareness of the variety of roles that are available within logistics.

How do you think we could encourage more women into the industry?

I think the best way to encourage women into the industry is by giving them something to aspire to. I feel very privileged in the road sector of Kuehne+Nagel to know that the Business Unit Director is a woman and, in the future, there might be the opportunity for me to be in a Director position. I’m also proud to work for a company where near enough half the National Management Board is female.

AMY HINSLIFF-SMITH, INNOVATION DEGREE APPRENTICE AT CEVA LOGISTICS

MEET AMY HINSLIFF-SMITH, INNOVATION DEGREE APPRENTICE AT CEVA LOGISTICS

Amy is an Innovation Degree Apprentice at CEVA logistics, who says that getting more women into the industry would help to empower change and bring about an innovative culture.

Could you talk us through what your ‘day-to-day’ life looks like?

My day to day is very varied due to the hybrid nature of my role. I work in both a head office function and onsite at our customer operations.

A basic schedule of my day visiting a site would start with a coffee and checking emails.  Firstly I respond to any suppliers or sites who have requested info or book in visits. I complete any project work which needs progressing and update our Innovation trackers: what projects we are progressing, the innovation catalogue with new investigations, trials or fully implemented designs. Then I pack up my work bag with my laptop and drive to site where I meet the site manager/contract manager or the requested host. We discuss the main site issues, upcoming renewals, impending issues, and reason for the visit. I usually have a site tour and informal chats with employees to understand how the operation works and any sticking points there may be. Then I drive home, write up notes from the day to send to attendees with an action plan and next meeting date and finally I update trackers and respond to any new emails.

When not on site, I mainly focus on the UK&I innovation strategy and global scale projects which entails project meetings, presentation preparation, research and supplier contact. This can often be exciting projects that will be rolled out across the entire CEVA business.

What skills are important for a career in logistics?

Communication skills and a can-do attitude would be the best assets for a career in logistics. It is important that you can work well with a range of different people, have a positive outlook and can inspire a group of people to work and get the job done. I think confidence comes from this as well and can develop really solid skills in people management.

What are some untrue stereotypes of logistics?

People may have seen logistics as a job but the industry actually offers a career. Logistics has long been seen as a man driving a truck or working in a warehouse. It was a heavily male-dominated industry and the stigma of this has stuck for many years, only now is it beginning to change. I would say a lot of people wouldn’t be aware of the amazing career opportunities available in all functions of logistics such as project management, transformation, sustainability and environment, and business improvement.

For more information on the many different career paths the industry can offer, I’d recommend taking a look at Generation Logistics’ website. If you’re unsure which path may be best suited for you, take the Find Your Future quiz to steer you in the right direction based on your personal preferences and skill sets.

Do you have any advice from what you’ve learnt on your career journey?

Take every opportunity given to you and be proactive in seeking out new areas of learning. The best people in logistics are those who challenge the norm and look for new ways to improve the business. Creating an impression that you are keen to learn and want to be involved doesn’t get forgotten and helps to open new doors meaning you will never get bored in this industry!

What would you say to women who are thinking about a career in logistics?

Go for it! We need more diversity within this industry to empower change and a culture of innovation. You can make a huge difference by being part of this change. Logistics is an industry whereby you will never get bored and always have something new and exciting to work on. It is a career for life for anyone.

How do you think we could encourage more women into the industry?

Visibility is the key way of encouraging women into the industry. I think it should be done by targeting schools, colleges and 6th forms to plant the seed of logistics being an industry of choice from this early stage. Showcasing the opportunities and availability early on can help students to form their studies around what kind of career they want to have in this industry. Many may not be aware of this as an industry so marketing it is incredibly important and changing their perception of logistics. Also, encouraging more businesses to offer degree apprenticeship programmes is a great way to encourage young talent to step into the industry and encourage them to see it as a lifelong career. It also provides businesses with young talent for several years as a minimum.

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