I interviewed Clare Bottle who discussed Skills Shortages and Gender Diversity in Logistics.
It’s nice to speak with you today, Clare. Today I’m looking forward to hearing and sharing your views with the audience on the blog: skill shortages and gender diversity in logistics. Can you first provide a brief background of yourself?
Yes, certainly, Dustin. It’s nice to talk to you too. I’ve worked in logistics for about 20 years. I started out as a graduate trainee, and I spent quite a significant amount of my career working for myself as an interim manager, providing logistics services to various big blue-chip companies on a short-term-project basis. In my spare time, I also help to run an organization called Women in Logistics: UK, and I’m a trustee of an international charity called Transaid that uses transport skills around the world.
Can you talk about skill shortages as a major issue facing the industry?
Certainly. In the 20 years or so I’ve been working in logistics, I’ve seen a number of changes across our sector. For example, the rise of IT. Everybody is using more and more sophisticated information-technology systems, and that puts a certain demand on management skills. Equally, we’ve seen an increase in home delivery, a change in lot sizes, more interest in risk throughout the supply chain, and challenges and questions about insourcing versus outsourcing.
All of these issues tend to demand a very specific skill set for managers who are working in logistics. One of the things I’ve noticed is that it’s increasingly difficult—especially as the world economy seems to be recovering—to kind of get hold of the right kind of people who’ve got an interest in those issues, who’ve got experience and skills in those areas to really help logistics and supply chain organizations deliver at their best. I think there’s a shortage of skills, and I also think that by fishing only in one half of the talent pool by only thinking about men as potential candidates for management jobs in logistics, companies are doing themselves and women a disservice.
What is Women in Logistics in the UK doing to improve gender equality?
Women in Logistics was set up back in 2008. Around that time, our sector skills council in the UK—an organization called Skills for Logistics—had estimated that around 9 percent of managers in logistics were women, so that means that 91 percent were men. We felt that imbalance needed to be addressed in some way, and we’ve really come up with a three-part approach to doing something about it.
The first part of our approach is networking. We run a number of different networking events throughout the course of the year. Of course, those are located in the UK, so they’re really aimed at our UK audience, but, equally, we have quite a strong online presence, particularly through our own Web site, which is WomenInLogistics.org.uk, and also through LinkedIn, the networking Web site, so that people throughout the world can engage with each other, talk about logistics issues, and issues of gender diversity that are relevant in logistics. That’s our first aim.
Secondly, we run a mentoring scheme. What we found is that people who act as mentors can find that to be a very rewarding experience, and that can help to boost your confidence, build your network, and to get you thinking about issues in a new way. Equally, people who have a mentor can also find that a very helpful way to progress their career, and it seems to be particularly true for women in our industry that having a mentor can really unlock career potential, so we run a mentoring scheme.
Our third aim is to make sure that we provide a platform for women to be part of the wider debate about logistics issues. For example, at our own networking events, we tend to have women at the front talking about their own experiences, talking about logistics issues such as the ones I outlined at the start of our interview. We also work on other events. If we know of other organizations that are running events where they seem to have an all-male panel or are only men speaking, then we’ll contact those organizations and offer to help them to source a more diverse panel for their event.
The third thing we do is run an annual awards event, which is coming up at the end of June. We encourage high-profile and very successful women to put themselves forward for our awards, and then that gives them some publicity and puts them in a position where they can be role models to other women in our sector to see what can be achieved.
Is the issue of gender equality a problem for women or for everyone?
I’m glad you asked me that question, Dustin, because I suppose you could imagine some men might find it somewhat threatening to have an organization like Women in Logistics exist in the UK, and we talked about that amongst ourselves when we first set up our organization. It was very important to us from the start to say that men are welcome to join, and there are a couple different reasons for that.
One, if you look at some of the big companies who’ve been very successful in tackling issues of gender diversity—and in Europe, I would particularly point to companies like Coca-Cola Enterprises, like Royal Mail in the UK, like the Royal Logistics Corps of the British Army. Those are some big logistics organizations that have worked very ******* gender diversity. What we’ve found is that those have been successful because they’ve had women and men working as a team together to tackle these issues. Of course, the outcome benefits both women and men because it helps to overcome the talent issues that I was talking about before and the skill shortages, which are a problem for everybody.
But then the second point is, I mentioned earlier that men are half of the talent pool, but if you can break that down a bit more, you would say white, middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual men with no caring duties at home are an even smaller—in fact, quite a tiny—proportion of the potential workforce. So, for men who don’t meet the stereotype, anything which challenges that stereotype and encourages diversity is going to be a good thing for them personally as well.
Thanks for sharing today.
Thank you. I would encourage anybody who’s accessing this interview to have a look at the Women in Logistics Web site and perhaps think about these issues and what you might be able to do locally to tackle them.
About Clare Bottle