Traditionally, logistics industry has been stereotyped as a male-dominated sector, and for a long time, women were left out of the industry owing to the notion that they were not suitable for this ‘blue-collar’ profession. But, not anymore!!! In the last few years, global logistics industry and related sectors like air cargo, shipping, railways and roadways, etc. have witnessed a rise in the women participation at ‘Top’ level positions. Also, with constant innovation across the global supply-demand chain, logistics is no more just about lifting and moving boxes. There’s so much more to it…The industry today offers wide variety of opportunities in varied domains like technology, e-commerce, warehousing, shipping and multimodal operations, and regulatory and research. As part of this feature, Ritika Arora Bhola speaks to some of the beautiful and youthful women leaders who have proved that they are equally worthy of recognition and promotion, while continuing to inspire many to enter and thrive in the logistics space.

Jessica Tyler, President- Air Cargo and Vice President- Operations Innovation and Delivery, American Airlines

The challenge and excitement in aviation and logistics

I am absolutely loving my journey at American Airlines so far. It continues to surprise me in the best way. The unique thing about working in cargo and the airline industry as a whole is that the variety of job functions and role needs are vast. No matter what you are interested in, good at, or passionate about, there is likely a job within this industry that fits you. It takes a lot of work to operate an airline. I’m still learning more and more each day, and that’s part of the challenge and excitement in aviation and logistics.

The diversity that you can’t see

Within American Airlines Cargo, specifically, we have quite a few women leaders. In fact, across our leaders in cargo, 50 per cent are women. I think in the industry, we are seeing more and more women in top leadership positions, and that’s a great step forward.

Having a range of human experiences on a team is critical to high-performance. As differences we can see, like male and female and race, rise within our industry, we improve our odds of increasing the diversity underneath the surface—the diversity that you can’t see.  That range of human experience is what strengthens how we move through the world collectively.

Developing leaders who know how to build diverse teams

Ensuring the leaders you have today—the decision-makers, the builders of culture—are equipped to identify, hire and ultimately engage and develop diverse talent is the most critical aspect for strengthening diversity in an organisation. Too often, we skip over these leaders and focus diversity programs entirely on “development” of a targeted group—such as females or black team members, for example.  While these programs are important, we should also be spending as much time and resources on developing leaders who know how to build diverse teams.

I just have a life calendar

I’m not going to lie; I don’t have a lot of down time, but who does? Like anyone, I have a life outside of work. Mine includes a very supportive husband, three sons, and our dog. I definitely struggle, but I’ve learned what works for me. That doesn’t mean things are always easy. Instead of trying to be everywhere, and everything to everyone, all the time, I try to manage my calendar holistically and in a way that allows for focus. I don’t have a separate work calendar and home calendar. I just have a life calendar. Getting my calendar right helps set me up for a more successful day. I don’t strive for balance. I strive for work-life integration.

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Stacy Rouillon, Head of Time Critical – Quick Global Priority Logistics, Kuehne + Nagel

I chose to be a part of this industry

I was always told as a child that I could grow up to be whatever I wanted to be with hard work, discipline and self-belief. I chose to be a part of this industry. I have served various roles so far like customers handling, marketing, accounts management, etc. Learning from others and their experiences really helped to shape my journey. Whilst I often found myself to be the only woman in the room for many meetings, I didn’t let that stop my voice being heard. I chose to focus on my strengths, stay true to myself and never tried to be like someone else. I never felt being a woman and so I could progress in the same way my male colleagues did.

I have always been comfortable being me

When I first stepped in this industry in 2003, I was told by a female colleague “The transportation industry has always been considered a man’s world. There is an unwritten set of rules and skills you need to master if you are to survive in this male-dominated world”. But the comments didn’t worry me. I was young and determined to be successful, but they did sadden me. I am proud to be a female in what is viewed by some as “man’s world”. I have always been comfortable being me and believed that being myself would always be more than enough. I want to encourage women to stop thinking they have to act, but rather think and lead like men do.

Filled by dynamic, passionate and driven women

For the past 5 years, I have been associated with Kuehne + Nagel. I am very fortunate to work for an organisation that values their people, irrespective of male or female. In the last 10 years I have seen many senior management positions being filled by dynamic, passionate and driven women. These are women who are strong, resilient and possess a growth mindset that keep them learning and developing the skills they need to overcome any obstacles.

The fact that life happens

Over the past 15 years, I have had various different leadership roles, all of which have required the ability to build and motivate winning teams. I am not sure true work-life balance exists. Instead, I have decided to embrace the fact that life happens, there will be days that will be centre around work and others centered around my family and friends.

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Celine Hourcade, Managing Director, Change Horizon

I feel part of the “family” ever since

I was always attracted by the air transport industry. I started my professional journey as an intern within Amadeus in their e-travel business unit. As such, digital transformation has been my thing. In 2006, I joined IATA to support the worldwide adoption of the electronic ticketing on the passenger side. I moved to the cargo department of IATA in 2008 to drive other digital transformation initiatives. I feel part of the “family” ever since and want to transform it for good. I progressively moved from digital transformation projects to business and sustainable transformation programs to make air cargo better: smarter, faster and easier.

I have launched the Women in Aviation & Logistics (WAL) initiative

When I joined the air cargo industry, I noticed it was a male-dominated environment, but I have been warmly welcomed by my colleagues and peers. The truth is that it can be hard for women to feel comfortable in any “Boys Club”, but we need to fight harder to get the promotion they deserve, develop their network, be visible and heard.

For many reasons, the air cargo industry was and still is a male-dominated industry. But this is changing. For all the great inspiring cargo women who are not visible enough or not putting themselves forward, I have launched the Women in Aviation & Logistics (WAL) initiative to help air cargo women aspirants by encouraging them to join the business.

Essentials in uncertain times

Women counts for 50 per cent of humanity and make up more than 40 per cent of employees in the aviation sector. Surely, having women in managerial positions helps a company to better understand its employees, customers, business partners, shareholders. I believe this also applies to geographic and generational diversity. I do not think women and men complement each other at the workplace and elsewhere. Female leaders are rated higher in empathy, team collaboration, and team building, thus contributing to developing trust, inspiration and innovation, which are essentials in uncertain times.

No such as working hours and work days anymore

Managing the work-life balance is mandatory for mental health and happiness, but I am still learning what it means for an entrepreneur, as there are no such as working hours and work days anymore after the pandemic.

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Marie-Christine Gaudreault, Trade Lane Director, Synergie Canada

I decided to change my study program to Logistics and Distribution of transportation

My father found me a summer job for his Customs Broker. It was a small office at Montréal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL). One afternoon, the owners were out of the office and asked me to proceed with Customs Clearance of an air shipment coming from France with live ducklings. My responsibility was to go physically to the Canada Customs office and get it cleared…I waited almost 6 hours before it was released. When I arrived at the airline warehouse, the truck driver started yelling at me and held me responsible for the death of almost half of the ducklings. I did not sleep well that night! My father told me to go back the following day and observe the Customs agent and try to understand why I waited so long…and I found it! That summer, I felt in love with this industry, so I decided to change my study program to Logistics and Distribution of transportation. Since then, I’ve been working for the freight forwarders and I’m still in love with this industry.

Some people don’t take your ambitions seriously

I started my career as a freight forwarder in 2001, and the industry has changed so much since then. My first boss was a young woman. She always encouraged me in my career plans. My second boss was also a female, she was tougher than men and she was working harder to make her place. She took me under her umbrella and trained me like this for a couple of years.

Personally, my biggest challenge was the fact that some people don’t take your ambitions seriously.  One of my objectives was to become a partner in a freight forwarder and after many years, I realised they would never consider my candidature; it was only promising. That made me loose good opportunities, so I decided to quit. Another challenge that I had was the family question, do I find a family and put a hold on my career? I decided to wait to start a family because I was worried that I would lose my position and lose the opportunity to become a partner. When I took a step back, I realised that I would be forty years old without a family and I regretted this decision.

I was too afraid that I wouldn’t reach my objectives in this business. Instead of acting like a woman, I was thinking like a man…

Actual female leaders still have to trace the path for future generations

Even today, for instance in North America, as a woman to be part of a company’s management, and depending on the company’s value, you need to work harder than men to always prove your worth.  Most of the time, men are earning more money than their female colleagues and sometimes with fewer responsibilities. This is not happening only in the freight forwarding businesses but across majority of the industries. From a wider point of view, I think the actual female leaders still have to trace the path for future generations. I am Canadian and it’s much easier to become a female leader than other countries where women don’t have the same rights.

I decided to do things differently

At Synergie Canada, I am involved with network management and operational aspect of this industry. As a Trade Lane Director, I decided to do things differently—instead of having trade lane per country or continent, it’s per commodity. I have the chance to work with a young and dynamic team and that makes my job easier because they are open minds. I did not have any personal life for the last two years because I was doing the Executive MBA program. I have to say, without the support of my team and the company owners I would have never been able to go through this challenge.

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Yulia Celetaria, Healthcare Director, Volga-Dnepr Group

The possibility to ’embrace the world’

After graduation from the University where my major was Linguistics, I have been looking for a job that would give me the possibility to ’embrace the world’ by working with people from different countries and deepen my knowledge in intercultural relations. I started as a customer service agent which welcomes female specialists for their ability to keep track of all the details, handle various problematic situations and cooperate with customers daily. That’s when I entered the world of air cargo, which is indeed considered more as a ‘masculine’ term, although without female participation it would have been hard to advance as some situations require women’s tranquility, wisdom and patience whereas men are more quick-tempered. By keeping a healthy balance between men and women in the sector, the industry will win.

You grow with years and experience

I was lucky to join a forward-thinking company which appreciates specialists based on their competence, contribution, commitment and knowledge, regardless of their race, gender or religion. Of course, there are still some departments that are traditionally referred to as masculine, like aviation pilots. But with Volga-Dnepr being the advance-thinkers, we have one female co-pilot in ATRAN Airlines (part of Volga-Dnepr Group) and I hope that this tendency will continue. My place in the industry has not been easy, as I had to adjust my communication technics and behavioural patterns, but I guess this is part of any career in any industry—you grow with years and experience.

Women are becoming more career driven in all the areas

Indeed, in the last 20 years, there has been an increase in female participation in the leadership positions, which goes in line with society and global mindset shift. It is great to see that the diversity issue has been at the frontline with leading industry organisations like TIACA and IATA, aimed at changes in this field. We see more industry media concerned about women’s position in this sector like CARGOCONNECT, for example. Taking the leadership positions is not a smooth path, despite the gender, as you have to be prepared to work hard, sacrifice and take hard decisions. I guess, this is a general tendency that women are becoming more career driven in all the areas, with logistics/air cargo industry being no exception amid the increasing educational and training possibilities in various countries. 

2020 has also taught us another skill…

Apart from the work and dealing with the crisis, 2020 has also taught us another skill—juggling with various roles while keeping a healthy work-personal life balance amid the lockdowns and restrictions. This is a challenge for all the women/mothers working from home. You need to find the best combination of all the roles—teacher, nurse, mother, trainer, choreographer, etc. At first, this was tough but slowly, step-by-step, we managed it. I believe that this situation served as an eye-opener for many men who started appreciating women’s input more and sharing more family responsibilities—the tendency which will likely be kept in future and will enable women build their careers.

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Kruti Jobanputra, Director, JWC Logistics Park

I am very passionate about this business

My parents have been my biggest inspiration. My mother, who is also a business woman, prompted me to be a part of the logistics business. My biggest motivator is my father, who has been a mentor, a guide, a friend and a teacher to me. He has been a part of the logistic industry for more than four decades now and I am following his footsteps. I am very passionate about this business.

Change your old ideologies and mindset

I feel the only obstacle is the ‘Male Ego’. The acceptance of a woman above you because of her skills, intelligence and experience is something that is difficult for a man to digest. This can only be erased by showcasing powerful women in logistics on a national and international platform.

For sure, the discipline, focus, and dedication that women have are required in the logistics industry. I am sure that in the times to come, men will change their old ideologies and mindset about women who aspire to work in this business. Women who are already in the industry are doing very well and improving every year with competitive times and real-time experiences.

Finally acknowledging the difference

The industry is finally acknowledging the difference women are bringing to the industry and adding value to a company. This has been made possible by promoting women to senior roles and offering roles and responsibilities that have traditionally seen more of male participation. Today, the sector is doing a better job of supporting talented women and fostering a culture that talented people gravitate towards. Many companies have taken positive steps forward by introducing flexible working hours, onsite childcare and other work-life balance initiatives.

At JWC Group of Companies, we have ladies working in all the departments be it accounts, transport, warehouse, administration, etc. We are proud to say that we have 40 ladies in our junior-level operations team, 15 ladies in mid-level operations and customer service teams, and 5 ladies in senior-level management and as departmental heads in our organisation.

I am still learning new things every day

My experience in the logistics industry has been a very different one. As I said, it’s a “Man’s World”, was the first thing I heard when I had joined as a trainee, working with all “Men” around me. Eventually, I became familiar with this magnificent sunshine industry. Here, I got to learn about a completely different culture, about a different business. Over time, I not only developed the interest and worked across departments like operations, admin, HR, finance but also tried to bring in new ideas/techniques and methods which helped the company to improve and grow. After that, there was no looking back.

Today, even after being part of the industry for 15 years, I am still learning new things every day. And I look forward to more new things and enjoy new experiences as the company gears up to write new chapters in coming times.

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Sanjam Sahi Gupta, Director, Sitara Shipping

Last two decades has been extremely exhilarating

My goal since the age of seven had been to join Sitara Shipping run by my father Captain SS Sahi. I stuck with my “childhood dream” and entered shipping—just when the Asian economic crisis erupted, threatening Sitara’s key trading partners. I remember meeting each client personally to reassure them things would turn good. I felt frustrated and wished I had joined the company at its peak. But in retrospect I am glad, because working through such tough conditions taught me much.

The journey over the last two decades has been extremely exhilarating. I’ve seen new projects come to life, met amazing people and grown tremendously as a person. I don’t find any other industry that’s so vital to the world and has so many things to offer. I love waking up each day to learn something new!

I remember working “until the day I delivered my son”

My sister Sumi and I are like chalk and cheese. We are night and day when it comes to individual interests and skills, which can lead to tensions but the best part is that we can play on each other’s strengths. Sumi and I took the reins of the marketing division and the company changed its focus from perishable cargo to the niche market of over-dimensional cargo, which paid off, as the company “is one of the key players” in that market today. Siblings know and trust each other well and growing up in the same house can instill similar values.

My early vision of working with my father became reality in 2001, when me and my sister Sumi became directors at Sitara. I was 23 years old but empowered by my father to make business decisions independently. Passionate about shipping, I remember working “until the day I delivered my son”, issuing instructions to my assistant even in the delivery room “until the doctor had to take over”. It has now been two decades since we joined Sitara. The company has grown almost 10 per cent each year, including through the global economic crisis.

If we can tackle this problem of awareness…

There is no barrier for women but the main hurdle is the mindset of people. They stereotype others. For example, we once had a client who wanted to negotiate terms with a decision maker, i.e. a “man”. He was not satisfied till he spoke to my father.

Women are presumed to be in lower levels and even today the percentage of women in senior positions is much less as compared to men. It’s true that women bring different skill sets than men to the table. Women are assumed to be less serious about their careers as they have multiple responsibilities of home and children. Women shouldn’t need to pass an additional “test” to prove them or do they?

The problem is that there is not much awareness of the various career opportunities for women. The transport and logistics field like the maritime industry has been male-dominated and there is a need to attract more women.

I see tremendous opportunities for women in this sector. If we can tackle this problem of awareness, then not only will there be a new window of opportunities for women but this sector will also benefit from the untapped talent.

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Reema Jogani, Director, Reema Transport

Now it is my dream to take the business to the next level

My father started his transport business with a 3-wheeler vehicle 45 years ago, and today, Reema Transport is a full-blown transport organisation with a fleet of over 100 vehicles. My father has always has been my role model and it was natural for me to aspire to walk in his shoes and join the family business. I joined the company in 2013 after working for 11 years in companies like KPMG, E&Y and large media houses like Star Movies, National Geographic and Bloomberg UTV. He ensured that I had enough professional experience and maturity outside the industry, following which I joined the family business out of my own choice. Now it is my dream to take the business to the next level. The journey so far has been very challenging and interesting.

I had to prove my worth by working in the trenches and executing…

Acceptance of a women entrepreneur who spoke her mind out in a male-dominated industry was a challenge both externally and internally. Initially, there was considerable resistance in accepting me as someone who could be part of the top management. I had to prove my worth by working in the trenches and executing rather than someone who would just advise and give orders. Also, externally, the challenge was different. Clients were nice to me as they were pleasantly surprised to see a woman in this line, but I knew they wondered whether I would actually be working with them or was just a face being presented to them. Over time, they realised that I was as much into operations as in client-relationships, working side by side with their and my teams. As a result, I believe I have gained their respect, trust as well as their admiration.

A more human angle to complex situations

Women know that they are more empathetic and view situations more compassionately which helps to bring a more human angle to complex situations. This adds maturity to any setting, even to offices. The diversity factor also ensures that newer ideas are brought to the board room and the attrition factor in organisations is controlled. Women at the top ensure that there are women at every rung of the organisation. Ensuring that women are given an equal chance, and at times, an edge in the recruitment process will help.

It’s all about staying on top of the game

I have my priorities and boundaries set for balancing personal and work life. It’s all about staying on top of the game. I don’t indulge myself in unnecessary chaos. Few things have to be dealt and handled by colleagues. At the same time, encouraging a healthy attitude towards employees and empowering them automatically helps me too to balance personal and work life.

I strongly believe in teamwork and I believe and implement the quote “Team work divides the Task and multiplies the Success”.

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Nomita Kothari, CEO, New Globe Logistik LLP

It’s been 29 years and I only have gratitude and praise

As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step… In 1992, joining KLM Royal Dutch Airlines—Cargo was my first step in this glorious industry. What started as a dream to join the Airlines soon turned into a passion and I worked with Air France-KLM Cargo — Martin Air Cargo for 22 years in-charge of a team across India responsible for customer service. Following a successful stint, my next position was with Sharaf Cargo— GSA for multiple airlines and where I was responsible for business development.

Since the past 2 years, I have a new role as CEO at New Globe Logistik LLP. It’s been 29 years and I only have gratitude and praise.

A vision and the drive to follow-through

Whether it was my colleagues, my seniors or our clients, everyone has been very respectful, encouraging and professional. One must have a vision and the drive to follow-through, success will follow. Additionally, Sstrength, unity, friendship and resilience are a few attributes of our cargo industry.

Women must promote and celebrate one another

It is imperative to foster ambition in young women. Similarly, it is also necessary to offer a work environment promoting gender diversity, flexibility and building an inclusive and respectful culture. More and more women are taking charge of their careers and helping each other achieve their goals. Women must promote and celebrate one another.

The trick is in balancing

Wearing many hats is never an easy task especially when you are at the helm. The trick is in balancing—to be honest, sincere and ask for help when needed. As I wear the hat of a CEO, I am completely focussed on my work and, when I am a family maker, I am truly engaged in that task. As a mother, wife, daughter & CEO, my family and organisation offer me the flexibility to manage the demands of work and family.

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Hima Parvataneni, CEO, Navata Supply Chain Solutions

I honestly get an adrenaline kick out of it

I think I joined at that beautiful juncture of time when the whole industry was slowly opening up for modernisation and tech adoption. I find supply chain very exciting, whether it’s in terms of analysing complicated data, solving new and interesting problems every day, taking quick decisions or collaborating with multiple stakeholders to get things done. I honestly get an adrenaline kick out of it. I grew up watching the elders in my family do this day in and out. So, being part of the industry was also about taking forward the Navata family legacy.

Try to make the space more inclusive for women

The industry has very low women to men ratio, so sometimes you end up being the only girl in the team. Thus, men team members should avoid groupism, and try to make the space more inclusive for women. It can be something as simple as inviting them for Chai and lunch breaks. Workplace harassment is still a serious issue women face worldwide. All companies should adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards any sexual harassment. We at Navata have an open door policy and encourage women to speak up when they need to.

Hold recruitment drives exclusively for women

I think the gap has to be filled bottom up and not just in the leadership positions. For this to happen, the so-called ‘brand image’ of the industry need to change. Let me give you an example, when you say logistics, the first imagery in people’s minds is that of huge truck drivers munching at highway side dhabas. So there is this pre-existing notion that the industry is not safe for women. But this is so not true! We are trying to change this perception by creating awareness on the various roles involved in the industry, whether it is operations, client handling or IT, projecting it as a lucrative field where women can find great work satisfaction.

Apart from that, companies need to hold recruitment drives exclusively for women, especially in engineering colleges as the industry is quickly adapting to new technologies and automation.

I try to make a conscious effort in setting boundaries with work

Achieving work-life balance should be a topic of discussion for all working professionals, both men and women, especially in a field like logistics where everyone works through holidays and weekends. There were times when my festivities were filled with issues. I try to make a conscious effort in setting boundaries with work. I say no to any work emails during the times I have exclusively reserved for family and I am trying to be not guilty about it.

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Sabrina Menahem, Commercial Manager – Europe, CAL Cargo Airlines (Challenge Group)

This is amazing—to be at the center of the global trade node

I have been associated with this industry since the last 18 years. Initially, with a GSA and then I decided to take on a new challenge—as the Commercial Manager of Europe for Challenge Group. Since a young age, I have always liked travelling, meeting new people, knowing about cultures. Moreover, I am a big fan of aeroplanes. Most importantly, in aviation, you must understand your customer’s needs and react quickly to provide high service levels and secure their business. One day does not look like another and I really like the change. This is amazing—to be at the center of global trade node.

We must promote our ability to occupy high responsibility positions

Being a woman in this man’s world is not always easy. As women we need to go the extra mile to show that we are strong, capable, and reliable and deserve the best. We must promote our ability to occupy high responsibility positions. The key to succeed is to surround yourself with the right people.

To succeed a company needs variety      

Women representation has seen a steady increase in the industry. This has been possible due to the hard work women have put over the years. Be an example for other companies and let them recognise that women can be in the leadership positions. To succeed a company needs variety of managers, different point of views and approach.

Work is quite intense, but this also gives a lot of satisfaction

I am in charge of Challenge’s offices in Liège, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and GSAs in all Europe. My task is to ensure proper operation of the different stations, maintain high value and level of service. Work is quite intense, but this also gives a lot of satisfaction. It is not always easy to balance work/personal life, but I have the support of my family and company management. I am a mother and a woman leader. I am proud of myself and that I have set an example for my children—anything and everything is possible with hard work and determination.

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