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Unlocking talent

Women in Aviation and Logistics co-Founder Emma Murray gives her thoughts on attracting the next gen of logistics leaders to the latest issue on Air Logistics International


These are exciting times for our dynamic, global, innovative air cargo industry.

The rise of tech and digitisation is driving change and encouraging disruptors, as well as engendering new collaboration and creating opportunities.

We have a common goal in ensuring a sustainable supply chain and we have just come through an incredible two years, which catapulted transport and logistics onto mainstream media agendas.

But the new found media spotlight and greater consumer awareness of the crucial role logistics plays in daily life, while welcome, has served to crystallise  one of today and tomorrow’s key industry failings.

A recruitment and staffing shortfall across the industry has provoked new and searching questions as to how the industry can ensure it attracts the best young minds.

Who will lead this industry into its brave new world?  How do we encourage a diverse NextGen to join us, stay with us, and build that future?

I am not suggesting that there are not already many bright young people forging fantastic careers and bringing energy and ideas to air cargo. Nor that there are no women coming through the ranks or already in leadership roles.

But let’s be honest, the situation as it is now is simply not good enough.

Gender balance in air cargo is a work in progress and one in its infancy. An opportunity to attract out a larger pool of young talent has been ignored for too long.

A big part of the problem is lack of visibility.

In the last few weeks, I have attended a number of events at which women were barely represented on panels, and, in fact, often not represented at all. There were very few women even attending the shows.

It is not good enough.

How can we expect women to join us if they can’t see themselves anywhere? Or to stay if they have no role models?

Simply complaining is not good enough either.

That is why I teamed up with my friend and colleague Céline Hourcade from Change Horizon, on International Women’s Day 2019, to launch a mini movement for change called Women in Aviation and Logistics (WAL).

Our initial idea was simple enough – asking companies and individuals to sign an online pledge to say they recognised the issue and would think about how to take action.

Eight industry associations and networks, three media outlets, 23 companies, and 93 individuals have already signed up. You can see them and also sign the pledge at womeninaviationandlogistics.org

Céline and I have spent years on the air cargo event circuit frustrated at the lack of, or complete absence of, women experts on the stage. Worse has been being invited to join a token “Women’s Panel” to talk about being a women, as opposed to talking about our professional areas of expertise.

With this in mind, we launched a WAL database of female experts willing to speak, or judge awards, or put themselves forward for Board level positions.

We have 61 experts so far and we are looking to grow, so please volunteer.

By encouraging gender diversity, we aim to support companies to make decisions that will positively impact their bottom line, as well as supporting women to achieve greater earning potential in their careers.

Research has shown that firms with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences – a win-win.

After feedback on how else WAL could provide solutions,  we realised that one of the barriers for young women coming into the industry was often a lack of confidence and feeling disconnected.

So we launched a mentorship scheme and connected 27 mentees from all over the world with mentors, both men and women of different ages, for a four-month initiative requiring a minimum of an hour a month for four months.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Many mentees felt they had made career-changing connections and in some cases friendships. Both mentors and mentees felt they had learnt from the experience.

Last year, we also set a challenge to event organisers to urge them to set and track gender balance goals for their speaker line ups.

As a result of our public announcement, at least five organisations have told us they are using the WAL database to source speakers and many are working towards better diversity on their panels.

After attending several events on line and in person since that call to action,  I can report that progress is disappointingly slow.

But there is progress.

And we will keep raising the flag. In fact, if you are out there reading this and planning your next event, use the database and come and speak to us.  If you are a subject matter expert, join the database.

These are the ideas we have had so far at WAL.

To continue, we will need to raise funds and that’s why we recently established as a Not-For-Profit.

We have pledged to grow the database and set up the mentorship scheme as a regular event, but we will need your help.

Yes you.

We look forward to the financial support, which will undoubtedly come. But we also need your ideas and your time. This is just a start. WAL is addressing gender diversity, but of course good ideas with tangible results can work to deliver diversity across the industry

My 18-year-old son recently started an apprenticeship with a freight forwarder and is loving it and thriving.

When he was looking for options after school, I connected him with an amazing young professional in our industry, who gave him a peer-to-peer account of their  journey in logistics.

Later, when he had offers from different companies, I got him to speak with one of my customers who has been in the industry for decades, to talk through which offer to take up.

Both of the inspirational people that he spoke to are women. I did not ask them because they are women, I asked them because they were the best people I could think of to give him advice and direction.

It takes a village to bring up a child, they say. The air cargo village is already bringing up my son, he is loving it, he has energy, he is part of the future.

That’s right, I said he.

Gender diversity means just that.

It is going to take work and a change of mindset, even for those who think they are already there.

Don’t wait for someone else to take the initiative, start today.

People of Air Cargo, we have this – go do.

About the author


Meantime is a global communications, event, design, and social media consultancy, with over a decade of experience of delivering tailor-made solutions to customers worldwide.
Our experienced team has been delivering innovative, strategic
communications solutions for customers worldwide since 2008.