How to promote gender diversity in its logistics workforce?

Published on 27 April 2022

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Considered as a masculine universe, the logistics sector is still struggling to feminize, despite the professional equality obligations to which it is subject. However, there are both managerial and technical solutions to encourage greater gender diversity in the workforce. Here are a few ideas.

A predominantly male sector

The low proportion of women in the transport and logistics sector is confirmed by the figures. Indeed, women represent only 19% of the sector's employees, i.e. approximately 143,000 women out of a total of 755,000. Admittedly, they have become the majority in certain specific positions, notably in management (77% of employees are women) and purchasing/sales (58%). On the other hand, they are clearly under-represented in other, more operational jobs, which are generally considered to be arduous or physical1.

 

Only 1 in 5 employees is a woman in the logistics, handling and storage professions1.


Despite these figures, women have their place in the sector. The proof is in their over-representation in the so-called support functions. Thus, everything suggests that it is the image conveyed by the logistics professions that tends to dissuade female applicants. An image which, in addition to having largely changed, is detrimental to employers in the sector who wish to move towards a better professional mix.
 

Mixing objectives difficult to achieve

The stereotypes surrounding the sector are all the more regrettable given that logistics - like any other sector - has a duty to ensure professional equality. In this respect, companies with more than 50 employees are subject to a main obligation since 2018: to publish a professional equality index between women and men. Allowing a score to be assigned out of 100, this report assessing inequalities is based on several criteria, including pay gaps.

Each year, the company must publish the index score obtained on its website or transmit it to its employees. If not, or if the score is less than 75/100, the company is liable to a penalty corresponding to 1% of its payroll2.
 

The 5 levers to work towards professional diversity

In order to increase their attractiveness and to comply with the regulatory framework in force, logistics players need to make a reality known: supply chain jobs are no longer reserved for men, including de facto operational positions. To do this, several actions, recommended by the Association for the Development of Transport and Logistics Professional Training (AFT), can be implemented.

 

1. Improve working conditions

Firstly, logistics actors must ensure that operational positions can be filled by women, in particular by limiting the arduousness of certain tasks and by improving working conditions. Several actions can be taken in this direction:

  • adapting certain jobs to reduce the physical strain:

- by developing the use of collaborative robots whose role is to support teams in their tasks;
- by providing robots controlled by operators, such as robotic arms capable of handling heavy loads;
- equipping employees with exoskeletons to assist them with strenuous tasks.

 

It should be noted that 50% of the cost of the investment in equipment may be covered if the company enters into a contract for mixed employment and professional equality between women and men3.

 

- fully automate the most arduous workstations, for example with automated guided vehicles (AGVs) or autonomous mobile robots, so that operators do not have to deal with them;

- strengthening prevention, in particular by asking employees about the physical and psychological difficulties of their jobs
 
- creating an environment adapted to women (fitting out changing rooms, increasing the number of toilets, etc.);
 
- offering work arrangements to pregnant women (rearrangement of working hours, reduction of workload, etc.).

 

 2. Rethinking recruitment

Once this prerequisite has been met, employers must defuse the clichés surrounding the logistics professions, in particular by avoiding any discriminatory action during the recruitment phase. This can be done by :

  • the dissemination of commitments made by the company, such as :

- the automation of the most arduous jobs with a high accident rate;
- the combination of human and robot for tasks that cannot be automated;
- the professional equality policy implemented (promotion, salaries, etc.).

  • drafting gender-neutral job offers, particularly in the job titles (order picker, for example)
  • diversification of recruitment channels to avoid word-of-mouth alone (Pôle emploi, local press, fairs dedicated to women's employment, etc.);
  • better training of HR teams in recruiting women;
  • use of internal training to promote women's access to certain technical professions.

 

3. Better articulate professional and personal life

Shifting work hours, as well as long, repeated trips away from home, are often a barrier to women's employment. To remedy this, the company must ensure that work does not unduly interfere with employees' private lives. This can be achieved by :

- using mainly automated systems for night and shift work;
- asking employees about their situation, needs and constraints;
- proposing schedule adjustments, particularly for employees with one child in their care;
- taking into account the specific constraints imposed by the school calendar (back-to-school, vacations, etc.);
- supporting employees in their daily lives (carpooling, CESU to facilitate childcare, etc.).

 

1 parent out of 2 keeps their children for organizational or financial reasons. A situation that is most often detrimental to the employability of women4.

 

 4. Promote training and skills development

On a daily basis, the company must make it clear that no logistics job is closed to women, but also that gender diversity is an asset for the business. From this point of view, the supply chain actors must rethink their training and internal evolution policy. It is thus possible to :

- ensure that the number of training courses taken by men and women is equivalent, particularly with regard to the control of automated systems;
- offering specific training to women, for example in operational areas
- educate people about the benefits of training and career development;
- rethinking training methods, particularly with regard to hours, locations and duration;
- developing a culture of professional equality internally by training managers and teams on the subject.


Integrated HR tools are also a great help in promoting training and skills development. For example, the Resource Management module of Generix Goup's WMS, launched in 2022, allows:

- restrict repetitiveness in the allocation of tasks;
- to encourage the versatility of employees ;
- and thus promote their evolution in competence. 

To do this, it relies on artificial intelligence technology, providing an overview of all warehouse operations.

 

5. Ensure internal promotion

Gender diversity and professional equality also require a balance in internal promotions, which are often reserved for men for reasons of availability and pace of life. To reach this objective, logistics companies can :

- conduct an audit of promotion practices (distribution of promotions by gender, amount of increases granted, etc.);
- encourage women to apply for positions of responsibility;
- define a target for increasing the number of women in unbalanced positions;
- analyze the career development of employees after maternity leave, parental leave or part-time work.

 

Good to know: any automation and robotization process must start with the implementation of a WMS, which is essential for the supervision of all technological resources.

To find out more, see our dedicated page.

1 2021 Report of the Observatoire Prospectif des métiers et des qualifications dans les Transports et la Logistique - CPNEFP
2 What is the professional equality index? - Public Service - 2021
3 The contract for mixed employment and professional equality - Ministry of Labor, Employment and Integration - 2021
4 Acting for professional diversity in transport and logistics companies in Île-de-France - Sheet 2 - AFT - 2021