International Women's Day 2023: Women Leading the Way in Logistics
The logistics industry is historically male-dominated, but in recent years, there has been a growing trend of women making their mark in this field. Women are breaking down barriers and leading the way in various aspects of logistics, including management, operations, and supply chain. They are contributing their skills, knowledge, and expertise to improve the industry's efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability.
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2023, we asked several top women leaders in logistics to share some advice for those seeking to start a career in a male-dominated field like theirs. Let’s hear what they have to say!
#1 Sofia Rivas Herrera, Supply Chain Ambassador, Supply Chain Network Design and Optimization Manager at HP
Sofia Rivas Herrera is a recognized thought leader and Supply Chain Ambassador who has won the Coup de Coeur Award at the Global Women Supply Chain Leaders 2021. She has participated in several conferences, podcasts, and webinars to discuss topics such as digital transformation and automation. Currently working as a Supply Chain Network Design and Optimization Manager at HP, Sofia's expertise includes cost optimization and process improvement for various operations. Her previous experience includes working in Latin American markets in e-commerce sales and operations planning at Mercado Libre, data analytics and operations within the airport industry at Pacific Airport Group, research and field studies on last mile delivery and warehouse management with MIT, as well as network design and process improvement projects as external consulting.
In Sofia’s view, there are several factors as to why there are fewer women than men in the field of logistics, one of them being the lack of visibility of the success stories of the women who made it. From her own experience, being able to identify with other women and learning about how they made it is a guaranteed way to encourage others to follow.
“Companies must champion, support and encourage their female employees to advocate for women to join the industry by sharing about what they do in their roles, their achievements and their aspirations. Additionally, leaders should empower women in their companies whenever they can; ensuring their voices are heard within a great and safe work environment.”
#2 Chika Imakita, Managing Director, Malaysia and Singapore at UPS Asia Pacific
As the Managing Director of UPS Malaysia and Singapore, Chika Imakita oversees all aspects of UPS’s small package operations in both countries. Based in Singapore, she leads a combined team of several hundred people tasked with driving business expansion and implementing local and international strategic growth initiatives in two key Southeast Asian markets. A firm believer in giving back to the community, Chika is a member of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corp, an auxiliary branch of the Singapore Armed Forces that allows women and non-Singaporeans to contribute to the defense of the nation.
Chika believes that people are naturally inspired by those whom they feel they can relate to, regardless of the source of that relatability. Ultimately, the goal is to make something that once seemed extraordinary become commonplace. As she has aptly put it, "the day when it is no longer newsworthy for a company to hire a female CEO or have a diverse workforce will be a significant milestone for the equality movement."
Chika’s advice for women who want to succeed in logistics: “Go for it. There’s absolutely no reason why a woman can’t have a successful career in logistics. 46% of the UPS Board of Directors and 36% of our C-suite are women. We have women in leadership roles across Asia Pacific so I think UPS is testament to that.”
#3 Emily Orcullo, Director APAC & CN Customer Logistics at the LEGO Group
Emily Orcullo has more than 20 years of supply chain experience, having worked in various roles, business categories, leading diverse teams and managing a wide range of stakeholders. Originally from the Philippines, Emily is now based in Singapore and working as the Director for Asia-Pacific & China Customer Logistics at the LEGO Group. She leads a team of supply chain professionals who primarily liaise with their retail customers, understand their logistics requirements and work towards making LEGO the supplier of choice for retailers.
One of Emily's proudest achievements was the successful implementation of supply planning systems and operational processes for a high-profile brand acquisition. This was a challenging transition that impacted numerous manufacturing sites, product lines, and master data sources, as well as requiring coordination between teams from two different companies. Emily's most significant takeaway from this experience was not a technical lesson, but rather the importance of stakeholder management. She learned how to facilitate effective decision-making and how to influence individuals towards a common goal.
Emily encourages women in logistics to be strategic and to embrace the mindset of a systems thinker, among other things: “One tiny action in the end-to-end supply chain impacts the rest of the network. One small defect now becomes bigger, over time. To be future-proof, expand your thinking to understand recurring patterns, and to identify the cause and effect not only in the short term but also in the long term.”
#4 Ellen Voie, President/ Chief Executive Officer at Women In Trucking Association
Ellen Voie (Voya) is an internationally recognized speaker and authority on gender diversity and inclusion for women working in nontraditional careers in transportation. She founded the Women In Trucking Association in 2007, and currently serves as the nonprofit organization’s President & CEO. The Women In Trucking Association was formed to promote the employment of women in the trucking industry, to remove obstacles that might keep them from succeeding, and to celebrate the successes of its members. Ellen also currently serves on the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) to provide recommendations and advice to the FMCSA on motor carrier safety programs and motor carrier safety regulations.
Establishing her credibility was the most significant challenge that Ellen encountered throughout her logistics career: “I worked for a steel fabricating plant early in my career and they promoted me to the shipping department and paid for my education. I was very young and responsible for the raw steel materials coming in and the finished material handling products shipping out to our customers. Being a woman and being very young in a very male environment was difficult, but I continued my education and worked my way through the ranks and established my credibility.”
In Ellen’s opinion, continuous learning is key to advancing one’s career, regardless of the industry they are in. She suggests that individuals should ask many questions and conduct extensive research to determine their career goals. Furthermore, she also advises finding a mentor and taking advantage of every opportunity to learn, including attending industry events, obtaining certificates or diplomas, and reading relevant publications.
#5 Sini Wilson, Director - Courier, Express & Parcel at Oman Post & Asyad Express
Sini Wilson is a commercial leader in the Express Logistics Industry based in the Middle East. With a passion for global e-commerce and logistics, Sini’s career in the last 17 years has been predominantly around enabling retailers to be successful by offering bespoke supply chain solutions. Her key experiences include spearheading business development for organizations such as DHL Express Dubai, Aramex and Oman Post, where she is currently serving as the Director - Courier, Express & Parcel. Outside of her professional work, Sini is actively involved in initiatives around helping aspiring women to navigate the corporate ladder and support and empower women struggling on a personal and professional level.
Sini rightfully pointed out how many people tend to associate specific industries with certain genders, and logistics is often seen as a male-dominated field. This may be due to the perception that the job requires physical strength to handle heavy loads and operate large vehicles. When imagining a driver, for instance, many people may picture a man next to a truck rather than a woman. Furthermore, work schedules in logistics can be demanding, which can be particularly challenging for women who are often the primary caregivers in families. As a result, achieving work-life balance in logistics can be a struggle for many women.
Having said that, Sini believes companies can do more to debunk this false perception and in turn encourage more females to enter the logistics sector. “One crucial sticking point we all need to think about when it comes to attracting more female talent to the industry is to remember that the leadership within organizations needs to be balanced or should be made up of leaders who are passionate about gender diversity and can drive the agenda consciously.”
#6 Judy Wong, Contract Logistics Director, Hong Kong & South China at GEODIS
Judy Wong is a highly experienced logistics professional with over 15 years of industry expertise. Her broad skill set ranges from managing facility design and labor deployment to overseeing global showcase projects in the aviation sector. Currently serving as the Director of Contract Logistics for Hong Kong and South China at GEODIS, Judy manages over 150 accounts and is responsible for the full spectrum of profit and loss (P&L) duties. Her leadership and strategic planning capabilities have played a significant role in driving improvements in efficiency, cost savings, and customer satisfaction, contributing to the overall success of the company.
Judy believes one way to attract more women into the logistics industry is to do more than just set up training programmes; it is no longer enough to offer an attractive salary package and organizations should focus more on mentoring and leadership opportunities instead. In GEODIS, for instance, the diversity goal plays a crucial role in attracting women into leadership roles in this predominantly male sector. In 2023, the company is striving towards increasing to 25% of women in leadership roles from the existing 18% at a global level.
To quote Onno C.P. Boots, Regional President & CEO Asia-Pacific and Middle East of GEODIS, “We need to do it differently, with unwavering support, advocacy, and policy changes even. The logistics industry needs to attract women into leadership roles, acknowledging their diverse capabilities and experience. This not only improves the industry’s reputation, it also advances gender balance through inclusive solutions.”
#7 Harshida Acharya, Partner and Chief Marketing Officer at Fulfillment IQ
Harshida Acharya serves as a Partner and Chief Marketing Officer at Fulfillment IQ, a renowned supply chain tech consultancy, where she applies her nearly 15 years of logistics experience and leadership in enterprise technology, innovation programs, and FinTechs. As a growth strategist and full-funnel marketer, Harshida has a successful history of driving results for logistics companies of all sizes. Under her leadership, Fulfillment IQ has experienced significant growth in revenue and market share, and is recognized as a leader in the logistics industry. Moreover, Harshida is the host and producer of the highly-rated eCom Logistics Podcast, a trusted resource for logistics professionals seeking industry insights and best practices.
When asked how companies can encourage more women to enter the logistics industry, Harshida explained that when it comes to hiring, women tend to look for jobs that fit their skill sets perfectly, while men may be more likely to apply even if they don’t meet all of the requirements, knowing that they can learn on the job. This is one factor that contributes to the underrepresentation of women in the logistics industry, according to her.
“To address this issue, companies can review their hiring policies and practices and make sure they are not unintentionally screening out qualified female candidates. For example, companies can prioritize qualifications that are essential to the role and be more flexible on other requirements, such as years of experience or specific technical skills. They can also emphasize the importance of on-the-job training and development opportunities in their job postings and hiring processes,” Harshida added.
Breaking Barriers in 2023 and Beyond
There is no denying that women are breaking through barriers and rising up the ranks in the logistics industry – one that is traditionally dominated by men. The aforementioned exemplary leaders are setting the stage for other women to thrive in the logistics industry, showcasing that gender should not impede success in this field.
As more women enter the logistics industry, their unique perspectives and approaches are bringing fresh ideas and innovations to the table. With continued support and encouragement, women are poised to take on more leadership roles and drive the industry forward. The future of logistics is bright, with talented and capable women at the helm.
For more exclusive reports, insights, and interviews on the latest updates in e-commerce and logistics, follow us on LinkedIn or join our community as a member.