A Renewed Focus on Women in Logistics

a renewed focus on women in logistics

I’VE SPENT MORE time thinking about women in logistics during this past year than I have in my entire 20 years in the trucking and 3PL industry. I was asked to help relaunch and co-chair TIA’s Women in Logistics Committee (WIL) with Sara Ruffcorn, and we’ve got fantastic insights and a ton of help from Katie Henderson, Jessica Mizell, and Anne Reinke from the TIA staff. As we began our conversations, we asked many essential questions that generated significant discussion and ultimately created a new mission for the committee and some plans we are excited about. We asked ourselves many questions, and I’d encourage the entire TIA membership to ask themselves the same questions.

We’ve all had different experiences, both personally and in our careers. Assuming our perspective is a product of those experiences, there is a good chance, if we look across the entire membership, we have a full spectrum of thoughts and opinions on the questions I present. I’ll share some of my thoughts with you, and I’d love to hear some of yours. We will need significant participation and feedback from all TIA Members to fulfill the committee’s mission of creating a community of 3PL professionals encouraging the recruitment and development of women in logistics.

Before the group met, I had a question for myself: Am I the right person to help lead this group? I haven’t wanted to put myself in any boxes throughout my career, and I didn’t want to be just a successful woman in logistics; I wanted to be a successful person in logistics. I wanted to realize my full business potential, and I didn’t want it related to my gender. I believe I’ve been able to do that.

I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to work in this industry and to contribute to a field that has influenced and shaped me so much. However, no matter how positive my experience has been, women’s presence in the industry is still lacking. Why? It is easy to understand why the transportation industry might employ more men than women; men make up about 90% of the driving and warehouse positions.

What is harder to understand is why the 3PL Industry employs more men than women. It isn’t easy to find good, complex numbers, but most sources believe women make up about 20-30% of the positions in the 3PL space. If the general population is about 50/50, we should agree that we are missing some women in logistics. But why? I don’t have that answer, but my curiosity to find it and my desire that women make up closer to 50% of the positions made me excited to co-chair the committee.

Am I the right person to help lead this group? I hope so. I am willing to start conversations that are easy to tiptoe around. I am willing to be transparent, to listen, to work the mission within my organization, and to challenge the entire membership to do the same.

Once the WIL Committee got together, we could easily answer one question. Should the WIL Committee be inclusive of all TIA Members, men, and women alike? To be honest, this was easy and obvious to all of us—YES, we need the male TIA Members to join our cause. We all credited the men in our careers for a lot of our development and advancement. We absolutely did not want to be perceived as a girl’s club or pointing the finger at men for lack of women in the industry. I’m ashamed to say as a woman 3PL business owner, my company has not done any better at recruiting and retaining women than the averages I mentioned before. I’m literally on the mission myself, which would make it impossible to blame the issue on my male counterparts.

a renewed focus on women in logistics

During my career, men have hired me, promoted me, trusted me, and provided me the opportunity to realize my potential. I’m confident they appreciated my contributions and considered me an asset to their organization. Since I’ve opened my own company, I’ve had male management who trusted my vision and respected my leadership. Others in the group seemed to have similar and comparable experiences.

We have also heard from men at other member companies who have had trouble recruiting and retaining women; they were looking for tips and mentorship in this regard. All these things combined made this an easy one for us, so do you agree? Should the WIL committee be inclusive of all TIA Members, men, and women alike?

Now we got to the more difficult questions we are still working through. This is where I’m looking for feedback from all members.

Are we lacking women in logistics? If so, we’ve come a long way, but what else can we do? How can we attract female talent to the industry? The committee has a few plans in this regard, including speaking to high school and college-age students to introduce an industry they might not have ever considered. What ideas do you have?

Once we recruit women, are we retaining them? Are we, as an industry, female-friendly enough? Does our industry either purposely or accidentally discriminate against women? Are we developing women in Logistics? Do the women coming into the industry know all the opportunities? We have plans to highlight successful women in logistics because we know that seeing is believing and achieving. This isn’t meant to be a platform to stroke egos; it is intended to show young women coming into the field what is possible for them. It is also meant to connect them with female leaders. The WIL Committee has always received feedback that the connections the committee helps people make have been valuable.

I’m excited to co-chair this committee, and as I’ve mentioned, my company can do better. Can your company do better as well? Will you join me? Are we as an industry ready to have this conversation? As you read this, please share if you had any thoughts on any of the questions presented! My email is [email protected], and I’d love your feedback! Please also reach out to another committee member or me if you would like to join us and be a part of a community of 3PL professionals encouraging the recruitment and development of women in logistics.

Liz Wayne has been a TIA Member for 14 years and began serving on the Board of Directors in 2021. She has been in logistics her entire career and founded Able Transport Solutions in 2015.