Ever since its inception, logistics and supply chain has remained a predominantly male-driven domain. However, over the past few years, the sector has come to realise the mantra of inclusivity. Gender diversity is getting a conscious push in the industry as companies realise that gender balanced teams offer better work results. Several initiatives have been taken at the local and international level to break the barriers and alleviate gender inequality.
In this issue’s ‘Wings of Change’ segment, we reached out to Jenna Kuehn, Senior Manager Inland Product – Global Forwarding at C.H. Robinson to have her views, opinions and invaluable suggestions for encouraging gender diversity in logistics.
- Why is gender inclusivity and diversity important in a predominantly male-driven domain like logistics?
I am of the belief that perspective will always drive change.
I like having uncomfortable conversations and openly talking about the importance of having the right people at the table. First who, then what—as said by author Jim Collins in the book Good to Great. The first time I heard it, I realised how even without knowing it at that time, it is 100% what I did while building my current team. Diversity and having people with varying backgrounds will always result in a better solution, regardless of the topic.
If you want to be the best, surround yourself with the best and remember you can only learn from those that know what you don’t. Those people often are not mirror reflections of yourself; seems obvious but is often overlooked.
2. How can we encourage more women to participate in the logistics and supply chain domain?
Nineteen years ago, when I was in college, logistics and supply chain was not a degree or focus. But now, it is.
When I went back to school for my Master’s in international business, options were still limited, but that is not the case today. This gives me hope that we can continue to get equal representation not just from women but also racial equality and a network of international logistics and supply chain professions that represent our cultures and are more diverse from the bottom to the very top.
We are all different, and we need to understand the value and perspective that each of us have, regardless of the gender we were born. I feel strongly that it is our differences and our life experiences that make us each unique and our viewpoints valid.
3. Are there any challenges that you face, being a woman in the industry? If not, do you feel there are advantages instead?
Golf is a popular business outing; however, I don’t golf and don’t enjoy sports I’m not good at. If you want to run or play volleyball at a professional event, I would be 10x more interested in attending.
Not specific to the logistics industry, but often individuals carry an unconscious bias that women are sensitive or can’t handle criticism or feedback; however, that is exactly what everyone needs to grow and become more self-aware. I think I spent a large portion of my career being unaware of how I was perceived. Thankfully, I witnessed a lot of people grow in this area and I’m happy I get to lead a team of men and women and help provide them with information and tools to get to those conclusions sooner.
4. What do you feel are the most important aspects of leadership and what advice would you have for others?
It’s important for leaders to think through how they’re building out their team. Start with trust and stand in the light for who we are. Talk about where we come from and what brought each of us to this industry at this point in time. That is the power of humanity, teamwork and the gift of being entrusted as a leader. We have to get comfortable in the uncomfortable.
My advice to any leader or those who aspire to lead others is to spend more time in this space. For organisations, my advice is to invest early in leadership programs for your people, show up for them and create an environment of advocates who cheer one another on for generations to come.
I had the opportunity from 2018-2020 to build a team that would tackle a big gap and need in our organisation and to me it was less about what we were going to be doing and more about the culture and environment I wanted to create and foster within our organisation.
We are a team of men and women from all different backgrounds. We have very different viewpoints and family dynamics. We could write a book about our varied childhoods that span three continents but yet we came together during a global pandemic and showed vulnerability and built trust within the team that can never be undone. This is what makes me feel pride and purpose as a leader.
“We are all different, and we need to understand the value and perspective that each of us have, regardless of the gender we were born. I feel strongly that it is our differences and our life experiences that make us each unique and our viewpoints valid.”~Jenna Kuehn