Women no longer outsiders for logistics sector
The much-talked-about 'Gender Equality' ahead of Women's Day on March 8 is gaining momentum in the logistics sector. The success of transportation and logistics operators depends decisively on the quality and qualification of its employees. Existing perceptions are changing and transport and logistics companies are working actively to increase the number of female employees in their talent pool.
Logistics is not just about on time delivery, it's about people as well. With this realisation, Indian logistics companies are embracing diversity with employees of different ages, genders and cultural backgrounds working together. Infact a very interesting Harvard research actually shows how the collective IQ of a group increases when a woman is introduced into the mix as they improve group dynamics by better communication and understanding.
What really holds back women from being a part of the sector is the image that it is confronted with. Work in warehouses, on ships or in trucks and trains tends to be associated with unpleasant working conditions and a less attractive career path. However, the world is spinning at a faster pace than ten years ago. The new era sees women breaking the barriers and stepping into every field that was male-dominated. Now, women account for a growing share of the talent pool in the employment market. This fact was witnessed at the event Air Cargo India 2016, held in Mumbai last month with four women speakers on the panel, out of 43 in total. They were Athina Kapeni, Celebi Aviation; Christa Soltau German, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA); Kaiya Arora, India Post and Padmavathy Rajasekaran of Export Credit Guarantee Corporation.
"A lot more women are being seen which is testament to the fact that the environment is changing. Having women in positions of leadership shows the general ethos of that company in creating an equal environment workplace," says Tracy D'Cruz, director, ACS India. Logistics as a service industry offers all kinds of roles in sales, marketing, operation, customer service and support functions like finance, HR and IT. The key competencies required to perform such roles is not very different from other sectors. The focus lies on customer and service orientation, business acumen, communication, relationship management, strong analytical and problem solving skills. Companies that overlook women's potential in the workplace risk a series of missed opportunities. More and more companies have now realised this fact and hence are investing time, energy and other resources in improving their gender diversity. In wake of this, amongst other companies, Mahindra Logistics has also taken up gender diversity as an important goal.
"We have formed a dedicated Diversity Council, the objective of which is to acknowledge differences and adapt work practices to create an environment in which diverse skills, perspectives and backgrounds are valued. This council focuses on bringing about workforce diversity in gender, age, race, culture, and also encourages recruitment of differently abled persons. MLL has begun with enabling gender diversity in MLL. We have started giving preference to recruitment & retention of women employees. Apart from that, an important agenda of this council is to sensitise all employees on the importance of diversity, respect & fair treatment towards women employees," says Rama Malik, vice president, People Transport Solutions, Mahindra Logistics. Unlike some organisations, others still find women lacking the required skills to efficiently work in the sector. Therefore, they see skill development as the need of the hour.
Tulsi Mirchandaney, managing director, Blue Dart Aviation, says, "The solution lies in skill development, which is one of the important objectives of the Ministry of Civil Aviation as indicated in their draft Civil Aviation Policy, as well as providing an inclusive environment which is the role of the employer. Associations such as the recently formed India Chapter of Women in Aviation would foster awareness and inspiration as they go forward. Incidentally, we do have women in Blue Dart Aviation in engineering and maintenance, materials/aircraft inventory, technical services and administration, among other functions."
Safeducate is especially dedicated to this purpose of training supply chain arena with international know-how and best practices to create programs which are extremely stimulating, hands on and practical. Divya Jain, CEO of the organisation also sees a highly qualified workforce as a necessity for the sector. "At Maersk Line, diversity of gender forms the backbone of its work force. It encourages a good mix of gender equality and balance with its various innovate HR policies geared towards women."
Besides flexible timings, work from home policy, maternity leaves, equal pay policy, it has also has introduced Back to work (B2W) initiative for all women employees across verticals," shared Ruchika Kuthari, senior manager, Business Development, Maersk Line who is also moving up the corporate ladder in this industry. This initiative provides opportunities for women to take on flexi-hour assignments with various Maersk Group companies in India. The idea is to engage with current employees and provide a platform for a smooth transition into a full time work culture. Women, who are usually seen juggling work as well as family commitments, are usually good at multi-tasking. This also makes them more prone to maintaining timelines and working with efficiency and speed since they can rarely afford to spend long unending hours at work. Women are often team players who improve the company's atmosphere with their ability to integrate and interconnect other people's experiences, opinions, ideas, wishes and understanding. They have a natural ability to think holistically, communicate and share knowledge and experience, to consult and mentor other employees formally as well as informally, making them strong managers and decision makers.
Women usually do not shy away from confrontations for conflict resolution. Their social competence may be of fundamental relevance to important decision making processes. In today's world, these natural skills of women are proving to be a very big asset to companies across all sectors. Women leaders who are a part of this sector find this sector to be service-oriented and differentiated.
"My previous assignments across 20 years of work experience have taught me the importance of customer service. My current stint with heading the People Transport Solutions of Mahindra Logistics has reinforced this belief, as a significant chunk of my target audience here are women, and providing service to women especially entails being flawlessly superior with aspects like safety, security, compliance and the overall service quality. These aspects are critical & are applicable to the overall business," adds Malik.
Describing her experience about working in this industry, Sunila Yadav, managing director, Anil Mantra Logistix, says, "To be honest, the ride has been topsy turvy but wonderful. From a little boring and dull in the initial year when people thought that being a women I won't be the appropriate gender to deal with transporters, shipping line or the warehouse operators. But from the second year onwards, it was smooth sailing but full of challenges as my bosses started believing in me enough and assigning entire responsibilities associated with the job expecting at times without giving a second thought to the limited manpower. Daily challenges and time limit to perform is what pulls me towards this industry. And the most amazing thing is that irrespective to how many grey hair you have grown in this industry still 'expect the unexpected" cliché rules the trade with something unexpected always turning up making you feel like a first grader all over again."
Though National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) is facing human resource crisis, it is keen on the mandate to train some 500 million people by 2022 to sharpen the competitiveness of its young population and provide a job-ready manpower to industries. The need of the hour is devising employee policies conducive to both men and women. This makes the policies more sustainable and avoids gender stereotyping. Also, monitoring of these policies is a must to ensure their effectiveness and identify challenges and gaps. Higher levels of gender diversity can drive up productivity and innovation, by introducing new ways of working, strengthening team dynamics and improving decision-making processes. It helps companies access a new talent pool and enhances a company's reputation and image – building the overall corporate brand and the employer brand in particular. For many companies, interactions between diverse employees also spark creativity and improve innovation efforts. The new generation mindset has let women enter this challenging and interesting sector. However, hope lies in the fact that the sector gears up with effective solutions to this highly discussed topic and eradicates the still existing inequality issue.