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Fight your corner

25 October 2023

We have a vicious circle. Logistics is not viewed as attractive by many job seekers but until we ensure that the logistics sector is paying everyone fairly, we’re unlikely to appeal to a diverse workforce, says Kirsten Tisdale.

THERE ARE already good initiatives going on to attract more quality candidates, but this is something we must continue to work on because increasing diversity is a major opportunity for logistics to address both the difficulties companies have in attracting talent and in supporting its financial well-being. 

Mind the gap

The Office for National Statistics periodically looks at gender pay gaps by occupation across all businesses including SMEs, rather than the submissions for individual large companies. The data shows that there are pay gaps in favour of men in all logistics functions.

Equal pay legislation means that it is extremely unlikely that individuals in operational roles in the same company are being paid differently for the same job – the rate for a picker is the same whether one is male or female. There is more opportunity for discrimination in management positions where there’s a salary range and where bonuses are sometimes paid on less directly measurable achievements.

Now there are reasons why these pay gaps can occur through no fault of any one company. One of those reasons is women not necessarily seeking out the most well-paid roles because they are generally more likely to be responsible for childcare and other home-based responsibilities, and value the convenience of a local job over increased salary. But this seemingly benign factor can be used, consciously or unconsciously, to exploit those women.

The size of the problem

The gender pay gap is particularly relevant to the audience for Logistics Matters, focusing as it does on what goes on inside the warehouse, as some categories of employment in warehousing have particularly marked pay gaps when compared to other areas of logistics.

Elementary storage occupations (not now the main category for warehouse workers) has a gap of 14%, Forklift truck drivers 11% and Managers in storage & warehousing have a gap of 13%. That last figure compares with Managers in transport & distribution with a gap of only 1%, although this category will include passenger transport as well as logistics. Warehouse operatives, the largest single category, has a gap of 6%, which is still above average for the sector.

Gender promotion gaps

And as if the gender pay gap isn’t enough, there are also gender promotion gaps. There is evidence that men receive 25% more unasked-for promotions than women. And that women are promoted on past performance whereas men are promoted on perceived potential.

Less than half of the larger logistics companies that are required to make annual gender pay gap submissions have senior teams that reflect the overall proportion of women in the company – although it should be said that our sector is better than the UK as a whole.

The business case

There’s a very strong business case for diversity. The benefits include innovation, talent acquisition, company reputation and financial performance. I think that we can all see how a diverse team results in better innovation – more ideas generated and explored. Going on to look at talent, it’s worth quoting some statistics from a poll of 2,000 UK workers of all ages conducted by Intel in 2020. 56% of those aged 18-35 would hesitate to take a job if there were no minority or traditionally marginalised demographics represented among the company’s senior leadership team. And more than 7 in 20 candidates of those aged 45-64 would also hesitate to take that job for the same reason.

Diversity avoids group think, because when someone is not quite like you, you make less assumptions and explain your own position. Better decision-making feeds through into companies having better reputations. Blackrock, the asset management company that handles trillions of dollars on behalf of its clients and which is also the biggest landlord of warehouses in the UK, has voted down all white male boards for these reasons. And these factors then all feed into better financial performance.

Lack of interest

Possibly more concerning than the gender pay gap itself is the apparent lack of interest in the issue. When I spoke recently at a logistics conference on behalf of Women in Logistics, there was a healthy audience …of women. I’ll be honest, I was disappointed that there were only 1.5 men – one was the partner of the founder of WiL and the half was a man who joined part way through, early for the panel he was participating in that immediately followed. Then there were a few that hovered just outside the open-sided theatre, but didn’t feel compelled to come in. I concluded that men in logistics don’t really care about the gender pay gap or comparative lack of diversity.

Taking action

After mentioning the lack of male interest in the gender pay gap presentation in the Women in Logistics newsletter, there were various responses including those who felt it was up to us (Women in Logistics as a forum and women in general) to take action around coaching to ask for better pay and avoiding apologetic language, and those who thought that perhaps men didn’t want to exploit an event that they felt was meant to be about women. However, there was also a strong feeling that it’s not just for women to fix this problem, and that we need to actively call on male allies to support women and say publicly that they respect women who do ask for salary increases.

But some of this is about women having the confidence to ask for what they are worth. Advice that came out of the Women in Logistics forum steering group discussion on this topic included making sure you know what the salary band for the role is before you state your expectations. And employers, please don’t expect the candidate to use guesswork, hoping to get someone at cut price! Women in Logistics will be putting together some advice and tips, in particular around salary levels and how to ask for increases, so keep an eye out for our Linkedin posts. We can’t relax until we have fully diverse senior teams (and it’s not just about gender), because logistics needs to fight its corner to get talent!

Kirsten Tisdale FCILT on behalf of Women in Logistics, a forum of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport

Date for your diary

18 April 2024 - Women in Logistics Conference, hosted by Active Ants in Northampton – bookings will be through CILT(UK) events nearer the time.

“Diversity and inclusion are a tie-breaker for a third of Gen Z jobseekers, and they want to see the evidence. Talking a good game is not good enough, when a majority of under-35s want to see that organisations promoting diversity are backing that up with leadership teams that include under-represented minorities.”

Intel Report 2020 - Inclusion: The Deciding Factor - how inclusion and diversity will shape business success in 2030