The Power of Diversity for Transport and Logistics

Following International Women’s Day (March 8), conversations about diversity and inclusion across the transport industry are becoming increasingly important.

The Power of Diversity for Transport and Logistics | Ofload

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day was “Inspire Inclusion”. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to build diversity across the logistics industry. There is still a significant gender gap in logistics. However, there are many ways that transport and logistics would benefit from new perspectives and ideas brought from diverse inputs.

The value of diversity, equity and inclusion

In a globalised world, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) isn’t just a PC buzzword—it’s a true reflection of the society we live in. On an ethical and moral level, it’s important to incorporate better DE&I practices. But there are also many practical, tangible results companies can gain if they encourage a diverse workforce.

Embracing diversity in transportation will also be key to addressing the growing skills gap in freight. In 2016, 480 million tonnes of freight was moved along the supply chain in NSW alone. This figure is set to skyrocket to 618 million tonnes by 2036. However, the Australian heavy vehicle driver population is fast approaching retirement. The average heavy vehicle driver is 47 years old, and women make up just 3% of this part of the industry. Engaging women in the transport industry is one approach that will benefit this gap, as the potential pool for drivers would widen substantially.

Enhanced logistic innovation through diversity 

Teams that include people from diverse backgrounds bring a range of different perspectives, which can lead to more creative solutions and innovative problem-solving methods.

Diverse workforces will be equally necessary to meet the modernisation and digitisation of the transport sector. With an increased availability of tracking and connectivity, the future of logistics will be powered by IoT. In order to meet these new and increasingly technological demands, the transport sector will need to implement digital processes and training, and diverse hiring practices to hire people from different skill sets and backgrounds.

Higher employee satisfaction and retention

Diversity and inclusion contribute significantly to a positive workplace environment. How? Because when employees feel valued and included, they are more likely to take pride in their work and are more motivated to perform at their best. This encourages a positive work environment and helps boost team morale, increase productivity and reduce turnover rates. 

All in all, this not only reduces the costs associated with hiring and training but also builds a stronger, more cohesive team.

Improved financial performance

Multiple reports have shown that companies with greater gender diversity can significantly impact a company’s profit margins. Some of these reports focus on the outcomes of greater representation for women in leadership positions. Others, like the McKinsey report Diversity Matters, focus on both gender and ethnic diversity at all levels of a company. 

Key takeaways from the Diversity Matters report include:

  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors. 
  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. 
  • Companies in the bottom quartile for gender, ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than their competitors.
  • Statistics imply that diversity is a competitive differentiator, and more diverse companies and gradually taking up more of the market share.

But why is this? While there is a correlation between diversity and financial performance, this does not automatically mean that greater diversity itself generates profits. Instead, the idea here is that more diverse companies are theoretically better able to attract and retain top talent, which therefore improves their customer service levels, employee satisfaction, decision-making processes, and other areas of the business. All of this combined leads to high levels of performance and profits. 

Current challenges faced in the industry

While progress has been made to encourage greater diversity within the transport and logistics sector, women still face significant challenges as logistics employees. 

Lack of representation

According to 2022-23 data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency

  • Women make up just 26.4% of the workforce in the Postal, Transport and Warehousing industry.
  • In the top quartile, women make up only 14.8% of the workforce. 
  • There is an overall pay gap of 20% in the industry that favours male workers. This is an increase from 18.6% in 2020-21. 

This disparity in both representation and pay can discourage women from entering the industry in the first place. 

Gender bias and stereotyping

Gender bias and stereotyping are still very real problems in the logistics and transport industry. This can negatively impact women’s opportunities within the field, limit access to certain roles, and affect their professional advancement. 

This is a significant blocker for women in the industry, as freight and logistics have traditionally been seen as “blokey” areas of work. This is because certain roles within the industry are seen as impractical or dangerous for women to carry out. For example, lifting heavy freight or driving a semi-trailer. Whether or not this is true, technology has made it easier for workers—both men and women—to perform their roles. As Diversity Australia points out, technology such as automatic gearboxes and hydraulic lifts means that work can be carried out without the risk of injury associated with manual labour. 

Work-life balance challenges

In many industries, the work-life balance challenge disproportionately affects women more than men. This is because heterosexual women are relegated to the role of primary caregiver when they decide to have a family. And the demanding nature of logistics roles, which often require long shifts and flexible working hours, can conflict with personal responsibilities. 

Transport and logistics diversity initiatives

For the logistics industry to truly embrace and benefit from DE&I, businesses need to take a more proactive approach. By addressing the existing challenges we’ve already discussed and embracing inclusive practices in freight solutions, shippers and carriers can begin to create a more equitable—and therefore more productive and profitable—work environment for everyone. Here are a few diversity strategies for transport companies to create a more diverse and inclusive environment at work. 

Foster an inclusive culture

Creating an inclusive culture starts at the top; leadership must actively promote and demonstrate commitment to diversity. This involves regular training sessions on diversity and inclusion, recognising and celebrating differences, and ensuring all voices are heard and valued. This can help combat biases and increase representation across all areas, from front-line staff to senior roles at the C-suite level.

Develop targeted recruitment strategies

To address underrepresentation, companies need to develop recruitment strategies that actively seek out and welcome women and other underrepresented groups. 

A simple way to do this from the beginning is to ensure that all job ads use inclusive language and do not feature gender-coded words. Words such as ‘strong’, ‘leader’, and ‘dominant’ are seen as masculine, and often associated with male stereotypes. On the other hand, words such as ‘support’, ‘share’ and ‘understand’ are associated with female stereotypes. If you’re advertising for a role, be mindful of the kind of words you use and whether you unconsciously feel that one gender would be more suited to the role than the other.

Implement flexible working arrangements

Flexibility is a crucial factor to supporting a diverse workforce, especially for those with caregiving responsibilities or those living with disabilities. 

Remote work options, flexible hours and part-time roles can provide workers with a better work-life balance. This allows people to effectively balance their responsibilities while still contributing to the workforce, allowing for professional development and advancement opportunities.

Diversity benefits in transport and logistics help everyone

Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the transport and logistics industry not only aligns with ethical values but also brings significant benefits to companies—including enhanced innovation, higher employee satisfaction, and improved financial performance. Despite the challenges that persist for underrepresented groups—from ethnicity to gender and sexual orientation—the industry is capable of overcoming these obstacles through targeted strategies, fostering an inclusive culture, and leveraging technology. Find out how Ofload freight solutions can help your business today.

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