At Barloworld Logistics, we believe that diversity is fundamental for an organisation growing into the future and as such we employ and leverage the skills of women throughout our organisation. The inclusion of women in the transport and logistics industry is not only a Barloworld Logistics imperative but is part of a global drive to promote inclusive economies where the benefit of economic growth can be shared with all who contribute, regardless of gender. Our vision of gender equality at all levels of our organisation is strongly evident, from the female executives at the very top of our organisation to our professional driver learnership for women, and Barloworld Logistics is well on the way to being a genuinely gender inclusive organisation.
This Woman’s month we sat down with women from various departments, levels of seniority and backgrounds to discuss what it means to be a successful woman within the supply chain industries. The women of Barloworld Logistics represent the power, capability, drive, ambition and sense of fun that #womeninlogistics bring to the supply chain industry.
Supply Chain and Logistics is often referred to as a “traditionally male industry”. Has this been your experience and what have you learnt about success in a “man’s world”?
Tsholofelo Molati - Senior Manager SHEQ & Sustainability : I entered a so-called “’male-dominated” industry in an operational role at the tender age of 18. In those early days, I faced challenges because of my gender, but that was over 10 years ago. The industry has definitely changed for the better. I have learnt that success is in no way determined by gender and that there is no need to forego your femininity. It is important to know who you are, understand yourself and know what you are capable of – but that is true regardless of gender. There is no question in my mind that women can lead and influence while still remaining feminine – even if they are in what society calls a “man’s world”.
Rochelle Adams - Group Financial Manager: I agree, as women we bring equal talent and success to the table. I think the one reality though, is that women still often bear more responsibility for personal demands outside of our careers which tends to add a level of complexity. The juggling act can be tricky sometimes, but this part of our lives is not something we should play down. The multifaceted nature of women make us stronger, not weaker, but it is important to know when you need help and to be brave enough to ask for it. Being a successful woman in business just sometimes requires a lot more planning and multitasking, which fortunately is second nature for us.
Mishka Singh – Senior Human Resources Officer: Rochelle and Tsholofelo make great points! I have to add, however, that I feel strongly about breaking free from the term “male-dominated industry”. I think, that in this day and age, there is no such thing and that by continuing to define certain environments as male-dominated reinforces the misconception that women within these industries are anomalies. I am not an anomaly! In my experience, I have never felt women are considered less than within this industry. I have always been surrounded by strong women who defy limits, so I really struggle with the notion that this industry is still referred to as male. Look around, within the corridors of Barloworld Logistics no gender dominates!
Rosa McLaren - Senior Manager Customer Relations and Market Development: I know Mishka just pointed out that this isn’t a “male-dominated” industry anymore, but like Tsholofelo said, 10 to 15 years ago, the working world, in general, was very different. I think success, regardless of gender, comes from working hard, being a team player and sharing one's experiences and opinions with regards to business challenges freely. I think the success of a business, a team or an individual boils down to communication and not taking a back seat because you are a different gender or age or race for that matter. It’s well known that diversity improves performance, and its great we are heading to a world where gender is no longer considered a characteristic relevant to the determination of success.
Dipika Bhima - Senior Manager Business Advisory Solutions Development: 100% Rosa! I am inclined to try to see past a person’s gender or race or age and always aim to get to their being. What makes them come to work, what makes them happy in life, what their greatest joys or fears are. To me, these factors are far more relevant that gender. Physicality aside, we are all more similar than different, and that is where I have focused my energy. I don’t believe success is determined by gender, it’s about the talents, work ethic and the experience each of us brings.
Nduvho Ramovha – Senior PR & Communications Officer: You know, we aren’t carbon copies of each other, there will always be obvious differences between men and woman, but I don’t think that’s the point. To me, the point is that the conversation about success should not be different for different genders. Work-life balance, teamwork, and communication……all the things my colleagues have mentioned are as relevant to men – or at least should be. I believe that if you work hard and deliver value, your work will speak with a much clearer voice than you gender ever will. Both men and women have different strengths, but these have more to do with who they are as a person than to do with the gender they happen to be. In this industry, and any other for that matter, success is determined by passion, work ethic, ambition….this is what creates value, not gender
What does it take to be a great leader as a woman? Any advice for young ladies as they build their careers?
Sherine Samuel - Chief Commercial Officer IT: As a woman in leadership expect to be treated as an equal but know that you are different. Use the inner strengths that we as women are endowed with to fill in any gaps. In my experience, there is sometimes a confidence gap that makes women pause and slow down while men tend to step up and learn as they go. As women, we have to learn to back ourselves, and perhaps adopt more of the attitude that makes our male counterparts bolder than us. Another aspect of confidence is preparation – before you meet someone, before you walk into a meeting – make sure you are prepared. Make first encounters count as they set the tone for all future engagements. Take time to understand your colleagues, both male and female, as this goes a long way in enabling collaborative value co-creation.
Mart-Mari Lesch – Senior Manager Procurement: Sherine is spot on – I have seen the confidence gap hamper women, particularly when they are just starting out and it is just so unnecessary. None of us should make excuses for being women, we are at an advantage because of our EQ, and we should all use this to make a difference, not only to our particular industry but for future generations. All female leaders need to be aware of the responsibility we have to pave the way for women coming after us, just as those that came before us did. The women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 actively made a stand for all women, and we should ask ourselves every day how we are honouring that legacy. If we do not actively work to change the perception of women in business successfully, we will not leave building blocks for the younger women who will step into our heels.
Sarah Lubbe – Senior Manager Marketing, Communications & PR Manager: The question of legacy that Mart-Mari raises is an interesting one. I think woman feel a unique type of pressure to live these extraordinary lives where we effortless have it all. We want to be career women, partners, parents, athletes, cooks, creatives…the list is endless, and this notion of having it all can really derail one. I think that we can have it all, but that “it all” is the sum total of a life. Over the course of a year, we live through four seasons of weather, we don’t experience summer, winter, spring and autumn in one day. Our lives are just like that – we go through seasons that will eventually add up to the fullness of life. As a woman wanting it all, you need to keep seasonality in mind - you generally do not have it all at the same time, sometimes your focus will be on your family, other times your career will take first priority, other times you may get the wanderlust, or want to attain a qualification – and that’s ok. As leaders, we need to go easier on ourselves and guide the next generation through their seasons so that more woman begin to understand that having it all is within their grasp if they would just take a breath and know that it’s a life, not a single moment that counts.
The supply chain industry may have changed, but it is still a challenging arena. Any words of motivation for women wanting to work in supply chain?
Thobeka Ntshiza - Finance Director Supply Chain Management: My advice is not exclusive to this industry, but since it is such a rapidly evolving one, I think this quote is particularly relevant. “When we think we have things already figured out, we're not teachable” Unknown. My biggest single message is to be curious. To be teachable. There are learning moments everywhere. See them and seize the opportunity to learn and grow continually. Whether you are in Finance, Human Capital or Operations, your primary qualification only gets you into the front door. It is your ability to quickly learn about the industry and the intricacies of your business that will shape your success.
Wendy Nel - General Manager Freight Forwarding: Thobeka rightly points out that a qualification only opens a door, but the doors that are now available are far more than there used to be. This industry is changing, and there is no end to the opportunities open to young females seeking a successful career in the supply chain. The glass ceilings that used to exist are being broken down every day, and the sky is literally the limit for those willing to put the work in. For young woman entering the workplace, my advice would be to work hard and believe in your own abilities. Don’t get intimidated and be afraid to express your opinions or speak up – especially where you see an opportunity to add value. People will soon realise that you have good ideas and will be open to what you have to say, particularly if you back up your good ideas with hard work and prove that you can implement and take action.
Catherine Gumede – Senior Human Resources Officer: Education, education, education and once more for education! Your learnings, your qualifications – these are things you will always have. The years you put into your studies not only give you theoretical knowledge but teach you to think, they expand your mind and teach you how to interact with people very different to yourself. Before entering the supply chain industry, or any other workplace, you need to understand your purpose and equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Once you have entered the industry, you need to find your voice. It is a harsh reality – but no-one owes you anything - and your career is truly in your own hands. Stand up for yourself, build your own destiny and never stop striving for excellence.
Supply chain and logistics is at the heart of the South African economy, and organisations leading the charge in developing sustainable, innovate solutions include women throughout their businesses, from truck drivers to senior executives. Research conducted by SCM World on the relevance of gender in the workplace indicated that women’s diverse skill-sets are particularly advantageous within supply chain management. The bold, ambitious and successful woman of Barloworld Logistics showcased this Women's Month are excellent ambassadors for #womeninlogistics, and Barloworld Logistics is privileged to have them, and many more like them, within our business.
"Well behaved women rarely make history"- Eleanor Roosevelt
Here's to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.
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