Strength In Diversity
Dan Henderson, Supply Chain Manager, Global Medical Solutions, Abu Dhabi, UAE shares his personal experience of working with women in the logistics sector and believes women can prove their capability if provided sufficient opportunities.
In the early days of my career, typical roles for women tended to gravitate towards more office or desk type positions—dispatch, expediting, data entry, and purchasing tended to have a higher representation of women than material handling, driving and management. Over the years, I have noticed a cosmic change as more women are being granted opportunities for success. I have grown to understand deeply that to build, improve, grow strong and responsive supply chains, women often play an integral role, just as important as men.
Not Suited To A Challenging Role?
Men and women are different. There are clear biological differences in both the sexes, but there are also apparent similarities as we are all human; hence the saying ‘same, same, but different’. Individuals are all unique, meaning one is unlike the other. There are many similarities in all of us and one has strengths and weaknesses just as others do.
I believe that a common concern within the industry is that women are not typically suited to a more physically challenging role. In my experience this can be as true for some women, as it can hold true for some men. ‘Same, same, but different’. This has established a glass ceiling for women, whereby they enter only certain links within the supply chain.
As with all successful recruitment and team building, it is quite an endeavor to match the right individual, with the right requirements, within the right team. The best teams will have a perfect blend of individuals with their strengths and weaknesses to offset one another. The best leaders steer the work towards the teams as per the individuals’ strengths, so that the team as a whole outperforms what any one individual can produce collectively. This is the exponential power of diverse teams.
Cultural norms have constantly played an impediment in limiting women’s access to certain jobs within the supply chain. Culturally speaking, some men have had issues and concerns over taking directions from women. In other cultures, women may have limited exposure to certain required skills (i.e. driving, education etc.). These barriers dissuade women from applying for the other key positions within the sphere and can limit an organization’s ability to attract candidates from a wider pool of applicants and eventually, limits choice for the organization. In some cases, this can even lead an organization to select an unsuitable candidate.
However, over the years I have noticed a sea change as more women are breaking glass ceilings, while taking on increasingly significant roles at all levels and links of the supply chain. I believe this is partly due to a gradual elimination of some of the cultural barriers. As governing bodies impact historical, educational and cultural trends and more women gain access to such fields, the applicant pool is being enhanced by not being limited only to men. As women enter these areas, they are displaying their potential and strengths as well, with many moving rapidly up the organization to the highest levels.
Changing Job Requirements
Another factor could be changes and improvements in supply chain processes that create a shift in job requirements. For example, automation and information systems tend to shift job requirements from a more physical to a more intellectual competence. This leads to a more level playing field and makes less important some of the biological norms that may exist between men and women. This is not to say that some women are not strong enough and whenever speaking in general terms, there are always exceptions. But as automation (AS/RS) and technology reduce the physical requirements for associates, organizations need to match the right individual to changing job requirements.
In the end, over the last few years I have worked with women in all areas of the supply chain. I have met husband and wife trucking teams who have been highly successful, both personally and in business. I have worked for highly capable women in Vice President roles that have enhanced my knowledge and career greatly. Not because they were women, but because they were highly capable and successful.
In the end it is about matching the individual to the job, based on the individual’s capabilities and the job’s requirements. I hope to continue to work with and for women, as more and more women break through the glass ceilings within the supply chain. Not because they are women, but because they are highly capable and successful, with selection based not on subjective gender, but rather on objective merit.