So, how was your International Women’s Day? Reckon your company did a good job? Came off, ok? Women feeling empowered? Men feeling relieved that life can go back to normal again? The flowers have been distributed and photos of every single, locatable female employee have been paraded across social media and the cover of various industry publications. Women have had their 24 hours in the spotlight. That’s 08MAR done and dusted again, for another year.
“You cannot be serious!” to quote John McEnroe from way back when, because no woman will ever have uttered similar words. Until now. Until a mere 3 days after the annual industry joke that is International Women’s Day, when I opened the presentation to an upcoming cargo event and took a look at the agenda: nine discussion panels, 32 panelists listed… of those, exactly two are women – one still a student. And those two women are the only speakers in a panel titled “Women in Supply Chain” (what else?), dutifully highlighted on the agenda in pink (naturally!), and placed directly after lunch on the final day (no comment...) Words fail me. I check the calendar to verify that I haven’t suddenly stepped into a time-warp and landed back in 1922. I haven’t. It is 2022, and I have had enough.
Who needs International Women’s Day, anyway?
Look, I neither need nor want an “International Women’s Day”. We don’t go around celebrating “International Men’s Day” (which, incidentally, coincides with “International Toilet Day” on 19NOV, in case you were wondering), by handing out whatever the favored gender-bias gift would be to all men on that day. I did not ask to be born a woman and I certainly do not let my sex define me negatively, nor hold me back in any way. I will, however, speak up when I see lip-service, imbalance, or bias against others like me. It isn’t a great way to make friends, especially not when you’re challenging an Older White Male on a Manel at a male-dominated logistics event, as I’ve found through personal experience, but imbalance and bias do need to be called out and worked on.
March is peak season for female interviews
And that means tabling these issues as and when they arise, and not simply sweeping them all into a tiny time window of 24 hours with a couple of empty promises and a free rose. Listening around, the beginning of March is when women in higher positions in many companies suddenly get asked for interview. These women exist all the year around, and yet, by sheer coincidence, the run-up to 08MAR is peak season for articles on female air cargo industry experts. Not that they are asked much about their job and expertise. Rather, the questions are centered around “being a woman in the air cargo industry”. Yes, because that is all we can talk about, apparently. Viz the “Women in Supply Chain” panel above.
Speaking of female panels…
Freightos ran an excellent web-conference on 08MAR22, titled “Panel on Modernizing the Freight Industry”. Moderated by Ruthie Amaru, Chief Product Officer at Freightos, it featured Alex Lennane, Journalist at The Loadstar, Tia Bhaduri Mohan, Director of Global Premium Freight Purchasing at Electrolux, and Carmit Glik, CEO of Ship4wd. It was a very upbeat discussion, with a lot of home truths (yes, we women also need to assume responsibility for our career progression and yes, that can mean working harder, speaking up, and fighting off dismissive attitudes. As Carmit Glik put it: “If it makes us uncomfortable, we have to be doing it!”), but also a lot of positive views on how far things have come in 30 years, even if they are still slower in the logistics industry than elsewhere, when it comes to female representation. There were many pointers on what companies can, are, and should be doing. The pandemic, too, was seen as a possible positive disruptor for change (if you ignore the fact that more women than men lost their jobs during that time.)
Genuine or Gender-wash?
However, Alex Lenanne perfectly illustrated the March hype: “International Women's Day is quite a marker in many ways. And it's sad to say, I think it's a benchmark for lack of change.” She went on to describe that “my inbox today, has been absolutely full of companies asking me whether I'd like to write a story about some marginal initiative that they’re planning.” Initiatives such as pledges to create a more diverse workplace, for example. “Why have you left it until 2022 to even think about this?!” she is incredulous, and not alone in her conclusion that words are not enough. Companies need clear, measurable actions and methodologies to bring about diversity and inclusion within their organization. From outside, with the spotlight of 08MAR22 on them, it “often looks like too little, and quite frankly, quite late.”
Success and ambition know no gender
I particularly liked ECS Group’s illustration on 08MAR22, with the statement, “Sorry, we don’t have women in stock today.” In the accompanying press release, CEO and Executive Chairman, Adrien Thominet’s words echo where we need to get to as an industry: “Since the beginning, ECS Group has recruited on the basis of competence and motivation. Ambition and success know no gender, nor do our training programs or remuneration packages. We pride ourselves on delivering exceptional performance across the globe, without exception. ECS Group is a global family where everyone has a voice and is encouraged to use it. We celebrate our employees all the year around, rather than over a given period of 24 hours.” Companies that live true diversity and inclusion, are the ones that are successful in the long-term. The trick is to ensure that your company is attractive to all sexes, and to get that interest started young.
So, what is your company really doing to ensure greater balance and representation?
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