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International Women’s Day: Forging a gender-equal and diverse logistics team at Rhenus

From challenge, comes change.
International Women’s Day 2021, themed #ChooseToChallenge, makes a rallying call for all to take a hard look at gender bias and inequality.
As Rhenus celebrates this global day dedicated to all women, some of our female leaders in our Asia Pacific offices share their thoughts on challenging, celebrating and championing change, parity and the successes of women in logistics.

The first of a series of three articles will see four ladies – Keiko Kiso, Managing Director at Rhenus Sankyo Logistics Japan, Stephanie Lam, General Manager at Rhenus Logistics Hong Kong, Anjali Gupta, Head of Corporate Communications and PR at Rhenus Logistics India, and Grace Lee, Branch Manager at Rhenus Logistics Thailand – share how Rhenus strives to promote equal opportunities and pave the way for better parity in the sector.

Why is the logistics industry perceived to be more male-dominated? And how true is it in your experience?

Keiko: The logistics sector has always been perceived to be more male-dominated because it is closely associated with physical labour. Perhaps it is easier to always imagine men’s labour or hard work at the port. However, today, there are many different business units behind-the- scenes where women actively contribute in. The work place has transitioned to include more females, especially in roles such as customer service and account management. This is also largely because many job functions have been replaced and made more efficient with automation and technology, which allow females to participate more actively and have a voice at the table. 

Grace: Over the years, new job categories have also emerged, including leadership positions where women are encouraged to come on board. I believe we still have a long way to go to change the perception that logistics is a male-dominated industry, and it will take the entire industry to make a global, concerted effort, to acknowledge that more needs to be done for women here. 

How do you see gender equality come to life at Rhenus? 

Anjali: Here, there are several women in decision-making positions. Be it Sales, Customer Service, IT, HR, Marketing or at the warehouse, you will now find women donning these roles and in many cases, excelling at it. There is focus on gender equality in the group and it goes beyond management speak - leaders in our company have demonstrated their commitment to diversity. The result is that the working environment at Rhenus is conducive for women; thus, attracting more and more women to join the company.

Stephanie: Gender equality can be observed at different organisational levels within the company. We have women as part of the top management in various offices, and we are encouraged to be involved in making key decisions for the company. 

What advice would you give to women looking to join the logistics industry?

Grace: I would advise them to be mentally prepared for the high pressure and challenges that come with the logistics sector. The industry relies heavily on international regulations and restrictions, which as observed during the pandemic, was constantly in flux as countries adjusted their measures daily to cope with the virus. Last-minute changes are also common, and employees, regardless of gender, are encouraged to be quick on their feet to perform. 

Anjali: I would tell them from my personal experience that this is a sunshine sector - and both the sector as well as the candidates will benefit from this association. There are opportunities across verticals and across hierarchies, be it Sales, Customer Service, Account Management, and Technology. There are leadership roles that require an excellent grasp of business management or a high proficiency in analytics. Regardless of gender, the industry needs problem-solvers and innovative thinkers to propel it forward. There are plenty of opportunities in this sector and several women have proved their capability over years. It’s a sector which is here to stay and offers a galore of opportunities to women.

Tell us honestly – are there roles in the logistics industry that give either gender a competitive edge? Why and why not?

Keiko: Logistics has always traditionally been viewed as a male-dominated workplace because of how physical and manual the work can be. That perception rings true for certain roles, especially in warehouse operations or transportation, where men are more suited physically to fulfill the roles. But as we see the wave of digital transformation sweeping the logistics industry, the roles are likely to become more gender neutral. 

Stephanie: Women generally thrive well in management roles. In departments such as customer service and human resource, we see female staff flourish and connect easily with their teams due to their empathetic nature and ability to multi-task. The workforce of the future values soft-skills such as patience and listening skills, which we often find in women as well. 

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