At first sight, the transportation and logistics industry may seem like it is strictly men’s work. However, statistics show that women also account for a significant portion of this sector. Is working in the TSL industry a tough nut to crack for women?
This burning question has become the subject of the annual Women in Logistics Forum. This conference brings together managers, specialists, and experts not only from the fields of logistics, transport, and forwarding but also from the manufacturing, distribution, and retail sectors. Its agenda is substantive and every year focuses on current issues related to the development of the logistics industry both nationally and internationally.
Małgorzata Matwiejuk, Head of AsstrA Poland’s Koroszczyn customs agency, sums up her participation in the event,
"In this year's edition of the Women in Logistics Forum, which took place on May 20-21 in Janów Podlaski, Poland, 160 women from the logistics industry took part. Professors from the Katowice University of Economics and the Warsaw School of Economics provided substantive leadership for the meeting. The slogan of this year's Forum was “LET`S BE OURSELVES” and made reference to how to grow a company in times of diversity and where to look for new business opportunities, all while maintaining your organization’s identity and values.
The first day of the Forum covered many aspects related to value management, influencer marketing, dynamic intermodal development, and the logistics changes planned for the New Silk Road. There was also a meeting with a special guest and an awards ceremony for winners of the "Woman in Logistics 2018" prizes.
The second day involved workshops connected with visiting the container base in Małaszewicze. Two days of interesting lectures, workshops, and meetings led to great feelings, and ideas and a wealth of professional knowledge that is applicable in everyday work."
In the AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG international transportation and logistics group, women are not a minority. The corporate group has just over 1,000 employees, of which 641 are women. And 39 of those women are managers. What are the most challenging and most fascinating aspects of being a woman in the TSL industry?
Julia Gorbaczuk, Head of the South-Eastern Europe Freight Forwarding Division, answers:
"I came to the transport industry completely by accident. I wanted to use my language skills at work, and I knew that a job as a translator or a teacher was not my thing. I was charmed by the transportation and logistics industry’s dynamism. Such a rhythm of work perfectly suits my personality, because I do not like routine and when only a bit of boredom sneaks into my professional life, I think of something new to work on straight away – new clients, new routes, or new solutions. In the transportation and logistics industry, each day brings new challenges and fresh experiences. The transport industry is rapidly developing. You can see, for example, IT solutions being implemented on a large scale. The logistics business is evolving and employees along with it."
For Julia, work in the transportation and logistics industry is also not without its fair share of stress:
"The transport market requires its experts to be available almost 24 hours a day, which unfortunately affects employees’ family lives. Nevertheless, guided by the principle of work-life balance, we are able to successfully combine both our professional and family lives,” she emphasizes.
“In addition to stress, sometimes we also have to fight stereotypes, which are still quite strong in some countries. Often I have had to prove to my business partners that, despite my young age and gender, I am an experienced expert. These stereotypes are often conditioned by cultural differences, which is why I don’t take them personally and approach them with understanding."
As AsstrA Group Advertising & PR Division Head Katerina Snehirova notes:
"Indeed, if you look at the logistics industry from the outside, you might get the impression that the majority of the "main" roles are played by men, e.g. representatives of sea and rail lines, fleet owners, drivers, and warehouse employees. If, however, you look at the transportation and logistics industry "from the kitchen," you’ll probably notice that there are more women both in the front office and the back office. You’re often more likely to meet women in sales, HR, marketing, accounting, or legal departments.
Pressure is definitely the biggest challenge that women face in the transportation and logistics industry. All the events, processes, and interactions in logistics in one day sometimes reach a boiling point. The intense work rhythm can stay unchanged five days a week, 12 months a year. How fast and focused your decisions are can definitely influence business outcomes. What counts, therefore, is the ability to work under time pressure, continuously develop time management skills, and, of course, appreciate the process and enjoy bringing some order to all the craziness.”
Nevertheless, despite its many challenges the transportation and logistics market is extremely fascinating. As pointed out by Katerina Snehirova, the logistics industry offers many "roles" that can be tested and adapted for continuous learning and development opportunities.
"My logistics path originated in the forwarding department. After a few years working as a freight forwarder, I felt that I was ready for new challenges. AsstrA gave me a chance to try my hand at marketing. Thanks to the transport experience and product knowledge accumulated in the organization, managing advertising and marketing campaigns has become a logical continuation of my career.
In today’s economy, women are seeking and achieving greater independence or even power. There is not an exception in the logistics industry. It all depends on a woman's desire for self-fulfillment. As Tony Robbins says: "If you have a goal, you will also find energy, resources and inspiration," concludes Katerina Snehirova.