Logistics companies are diversifying their hires, but challenges persist

The face of the supply chain industry is changing.

More women and people of color are choosing logistics as a career, studies show, though some say there’s still a long way to go before the industry reaches parity .

Women made up around 39% of supply chain workers, from fulfillment center workers to senior managers, in May this year, down slightly from 41% last year but up from 37 % in 2018, according to research firm Gartner. Inc.

This share declined further up the corporate ladder, with 19% of leadership positions held by women.

People of color held 32% of all supply chain positions in May, up from 30% a year earlier, the first year for which data was available, according to Gartner. That share also declined as minorities rose through the ranks, with 10% of vice president positions held by people of color.

Dana Stiffler, vice president and analyst of Gartner’s supply chain research group, said the recent decline in the share of women in supply chain jobs was likely the result of greater pressures on workforce during the pandemic. According to data from the US Census Bureau, some 3.5 million women mothers lost their jobs, took leave or left the US workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic because they were left without childcare options. ‘children.

Other female employees have also left distribution center and logistics positions for better-paying jobs elsewhere, she said.

More companies have prioritized diversity in their hiring practices since the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a police officer that sparked widespread protests for racial justice and the pandemic that first hit minorities and essential workers particularly hard, Ms Stiffler said. Companies have also sought to fill positions with more diverse talent amid labor shortages.

“If you’re desperate to hire talent, if you could better attract women, we’re half the population, that would give you a competitive advantage,” Ms. Stiffler said. “If you could attract a more multi-ethnic pool…then that would be good too.”

Shelley Simpson, president of JB Hunt.


Sarah Oden/Associated Press

Women and people of color are being hired into leadership positions in the logistics industry.

JB Hunt Transport Services Freight Indicator Inc.

in July, Shelley Simpson, its chief commercial officer, elected to become president. United Parcel Service Inc.

turned to Carol Tomé, former CFO of Home Depot Inc.,

in 2020 to become Managing Director. Raj Subramaniam, from India, has been chosen to succeed FedEx Corp.

founder Fred Smith as chief executive earlier this year. Judy McReynolds served as managing director of ArcBest Corp.

one of the largest trucking companies in the United States, since 2010.

Closer to day-to-day operations, however, some say the picture is more complicated, and women and minorities still face huge challenges.

Gail Rutkowski, former executive director of the transportation professionals organization National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council, has worked in the supply chain industry for five decades. She began her career managing a large corporation’s private truck fleet, supervising all-male teams of truck drivers and dispatchers. Ms Rutkowski said she developed a brutal management style to assert her authority and earn the respect of her colleagues.

Ms Rutkowski said that for all the progress she has made in her career, “even today you run into issues where you go so far and you hit that ceiling”.

For women in traditionally male-dominated environments, such as shipping, personal safety remains a significant concern.

Carol Tomé, CEO of UPS.


Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk A/S recently settled a lawsuit brought by Hope Hicks, a former midshipman who said she was raped in the summer of 2019 while on a vessel operated by Maersk. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount.

“We want to be absolutely clear that the events described by Ms Hicks are unacceptable. No matter who and where you are, those who work with us should feel safe and protected in our work environment,” William Woodhour, managing director of Maersk Line, a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Maersk, said in a statement. announcing the settlement.

Maersk has created a training, reporting and accountability program internally and is working with others in the industry to expand the effort, he said. These changes are “an important first step, but there is still a lot of work to be done in the maritime industry,” Ms Hicks said in the statement.

Studies also show that there is a large pay gap in the logistics industry. Male supply chain professionals earned about $125,300 last year on average, 23% more than females, according to a survey by the Institute for Supply Management.

Among people who disclosed their race in the survey, white respondents earned an average of about $125,000, compared to about $93,500 for professionals who identified as Asian and $92,500 for those who self-identified as black. according to the ISM survey.

These challenges persist despite studies showing that diversity in hiring can lead to greater supply chain efficiency and resilience.

A recent study from the University of Arkansas and the University of Akron evaluating collaboration between retailers and suppliers found that women were more effective than men.

Terry Esper, an associate professor of logistics at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, said when he started attending supply chain conferences two decades ago, he was often one of the few African-American men present. That changed a lot in the years that followed.

Judy McReynolds, CEO of ArcBest Corp.



But warehouses and truck stops are in many ways a different world from the professional networking events held in hotel conference centers, he said. Racist jokes, saucy banter and other inappropriate behavior by fulfillment center workers create barriers for people of color and women who want to pursue careers in logistics, Dr. Esper said.

“These are work environments where people aren’t as professional to be honest,” he said.

There are also security issues. Female truck drivers said it can be difficult to find a safe, well-lit place to park at night, even as companies seek to recruit more truck drivers who are women. Warehouse workers have raised allegations in recent years that include pregnancy-related discrimination and unsafe conditions in their workplace.

Alexis Kyroudis, Procurement Officer for Aerospace Company Boeing Co.

said people asked her why she chose to get into supply chain management given her gender.

Ms. Kyroudis, who is 29, studied retail and consumer science in her undergraduate program with the aim of working in retail management. She changed course after realizing she was more passionate about back-of-house operations than sales.

She went back to school and earned her master’s degree in global logistics this year from Arizona State University.

Ms Kyroudis said some of the people she worked with in retail were surprised by her change of plans.

“They’re like, ‘Well, you’re female, why are you there? It’s not really a female place,'” she said. always had to fight a bit. I should be there.”

Write to Liz Young at liz.young@wsj.com

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