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Encouraging the Next Generation of Female Leaders

Women in Aviation and Logistics co-Founder Emma Murray talks to DVZ

The Women in Aviation and Logistics (WAL) initiative aims to mobilise businesses, trade associations, and individual professionals to advocate for change and define concrete targets and an action plan to achieve gender equality in the air cargo industry. Meantime CEO Emma Murray, co-Founder of WAL was recently interviewed by Claudia Behrend from German transport and logistics newspaper DVZ www.dvz.de. Download the original German story at the end of this blog.

“There is a lack of women at the top”

Emma Murray cannot understand why so few women are given the opportunity to sit on the podium and be a role model at the events. She wants to change that. 

Emma Murray would like to see more participants in forums, discussion groups and panels in logistics. That is why the PR woman with a focus on logistics founded the Women in Aviation and Logistics (WAL) initiative together with Céline Hourcade, who as a management consultant specializes in the aviation and logistics sectors. “We complement each other perfectly. I’m the networker, and Céline is very analytical,” emphasizes the Briton. The goal of the two: to make their fellow women more visible, especially in air freight.

Air freight has been a topic for Murray since the beginning of her career, which, as the daughter of a journalist for the New York Times, should have taken her in a completely different direction after a childhood in Paris, Brussels and Israel. When she had just started her doctorate after graduating from university in archeoloy, the Gulf War broke out. A continuation of work with excavations in Iraq was not possible. So Murray was looking for a job to fill in until she could continue working on her PhD and, rather by accident, got started as an editor at an air cargo magazine.

What struck her immediately was that she was the only woman. That wasn’t a disadvantage: “I was well received and my bosses also encouraged me,” the 52-year-old recalls. She established herself for 15 years as a specialist journalist with a focus on supply chains and logistics for various publishers and was appointed editor-in-chief despite her pregnancy. Meanwhile, to bridge the gap between two jobs, she founded her PR agency Meantime Communications in 2008 with her laptop at the kitchen table.

There are no female role models

Developing communication strategies and advising companies, for example with regard to digitization, especially the air freight industry, but also in the heavy lift and breakbulk segments, she liked so much that over the years a small company developed from it.

But one thing bothered Murray more and more: “I can’t understand why so few women are given the opportunity to sit on the podium and be a role model at the events,” she criticizes. “And why aren’t the stories of successful women told – also to make the industry attractive for the next generation?”

As part of their volunteer work with WAL, Murray and Hourcade first wanted to find out exactly how underrepresented women are in the industry. To do this, they examined the proportion of women at 16 online events and six live events related to aviation and logistics that had taken place since March 2021 – with 637 slots for speakers. Only 104 of them, or 16 percent, were female. It was noticeable that more women sat on the podium at events related to sustainability, environmental protection, global supply chains and pharmaceutical logistics. In addition, the gender distribution was more balanced in events organized by women.

In the 24 global and regional air freight industry associations examined, there are a few positive exceptions with a proportion of women of 67 percent (A4A), 63 percent (CANSO) and 50 percent (ACI Asia Pacific). Overall, however, the proportion of women at the top of interest groups at the end of 2021 was also only 11 percent on average.

Database of female experts

“There is a lack of women at the top and with specific expertise,” Murray summarizes. “And if they exist, they are not always visible or known to the organizers and associations looking for board members or journalists: That’s why we set up a database of female experts.” More than 50 women have already registered in this. Five organizations are already using it to nominate jury members, board members and speakers for industry events.

The second component is a mentoring program for women initiated in October last year, which will start in the first round at the beginning of 2022 with 25 mentors and mentees each from Great Britain, the USA, the Netherlands, Denmark and the Middle East. “We deliberately made it low- threshold,” explains Murray. The minimum time required is four hours over four months: “This should make it possible, for example, for women in small transport companies to participate, who are actually always busy,” emphasizes the mother of three children. Men could also become mentors: “We didn’t want to found a women’s club,” emphasizes Murray.

Free mentoring program

Both the use of the database and participation in the mentoring program are currently free of charge. The initiative is still financed by donations and is mainly supported by the voluntary commitment of the two founders. In addition, Murray’s PR agency Meantime has invested in the platform.

For 2022, Murray has set the goal of running the mentoring program once and incorporating the feedback from it for the next round. Above all, however, she wants to mobilize the industry to measurably advance gender equality: “No virtual or physical seminar may only be attended by men this year,” says Murray. (jpn)

von Claudia Behrend

About the author

Emma Murray

Emma was born in the year the Beatles broke up. She set up Meantime in 2008 after a 15 year career reporting on the supply chain and logistics industries. She is an NCTJ-trained reporter and an award-winning editor. She studied Middle Eastern Archaeology and Akkadian, although she has to admit her cuneiform is probably a little rusty these days. She was once an archaeologist working in Syria and Jordan, and has been an English language teacher. She has lived at one time or another in Jerusalem and Aleppo, as well as Paris and Brussels, where she went to school and learnt to speak French.

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