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Are transport and logistics jobs “men’s work”? The cliché is one of a hard life, but in truth the tide seems to be turning with recruitment taking on a growing female influence. This is particularly true following a realignment and evolution of roles in the sector.
A number of years ago, companies in the logistics and transport sector started thinking about the place of women in their teams.
They already make up 20 to 25% of staff, proof if any were needed that these jobs are not the exclusive preserve of men, far from it. The profession’s image nevertheless remains heavily stereotyped, which itself results in women looking elsewhere, wrongly assuming that there’s no role for them. It also creates a preference among recruiters for appointing men, who are judged to be more “steadfast”, “robust” and better cut out for this kind of work. Which is why female truck drivers are so few and far between (approximately 5% in road freight and 13% for passenger transport), with the same being true for forklift truck operators, warehouse staff or order preparers, where women remain in the minority.
However, market realities have driven companies to reconsider their position, faced with increasing labour shortages. Little by little, warehouses and logistics chains are opening up to women in order to top up their operational teams. In 2015, a study carried out by the AFT (Association for the development of professional training in transport) for the Prospective Observatory for jobs and qualifications in Transport and Logistics (OPTL), also revealed that the sector had seen women’s presence grow by 6 percentage points between 2005 and 2015, and men’s decrease by the same amount. An encouraging sign, but there’s still room for improvement!
The road to equality remains a long one, mainly due to extremely deep-rooted cultural bias, which dictates that logistics and transport jobs are for men. Some firms also admit to a certain reluctance when it comes to proposing female candidates for roles, even when they possess all the required skills and qualifications. Furthermore, the women who have managed to gain a foothold in this environment recognise that they have to work twice as hard to assert their legitimacy. However, over recent years, the sector has experienced a number of shifts, ushering in a wider variety of roles, for which women have an altogether legitimate claim: task automation, technological progress and improved ergonomics have also made certain positions all the more accessible.
But it is particularly in management and support roles where women are making their presence felt most clearly. IT, shift coordination and optimisation, human resources, client relations, operational or crisis management, there are so many roles where qualified or even expert profiles are increasingly sought after, and which can represent true career opportunities for well-trained candidates. While the most critical roles – senior managers, logistical directors, team leaders – are often still reserved for men, some companies, in a drive for greater diversity, have decided to open them up to women. Even if, in these roles, they are expected to demonstrate their knowledge, expertise and technical ability, as well as their credibility, more than their male colleagues.