“Wings of change” is a special Interview section dedicated solely to women who have made a mark for themselves in the logistics and supply chain industry. The logistics and supply chain industry has long been a predominantly male-driven domain but women participation, which has seen a marked rise in the past few years, has led to changing dynamics. We reached out to Waheeda Khan, Co-Founder, Bigtruck to learn her views, opinions and invaluable suggestions for Women in Logistics. Excerpts follow.
How can we encourage more women to participate in the logistics and supply chain domain?
Despite logistics being the ever-growing sector and having a wide interest in business leaders in the field, we still see a considerable gap in women’s talent that is being underrepresented in the field. Time and again, women have successfully and constantly proven their potential and left their mark in all fields that were once considered to be a man’s forte, such as supply chain management, logistics, and transportation. There is an increase in the roles but the numbers are low and the transition is slow and we need more acceptances of women in these man-bastion sectors. We need to change the mindset by creating a market ecosystem that is favourable and conducive for women’s participation in the transportation and logistics sector, thereby advocating for equal opportunity to women entrepreneurs.
In an article – “This is why women must play a greater role in the Global Economy” – published by the World Economic Forum in 2018, it was noted that more than 30% of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) worldwide are owned by women, however, we still don’t see many women in the industry that literally ‘moves the world’.
I feel I have done my bit when I see more women in my team; be it Operations or Product Development, getting the job done right away and getting known for outstanding and unusual accomplishments.
To attract and encourage more and more women in this industry, we just need to educate
them, create opportunities for them in the same ecosystem and ensure more and more women in the senior management level so that there is a constant recognition for the need for diversity and its time we need to take action to make real progress on our diversity agenda.
Can you share with us any important women-led projects that have piqued your interest?
These are interesting times and women are contributing all over for the betterment of societies and bringing in a huge change in economies at large, Like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon Limited, who was named the EY World Entrepreneur of The Year 2020 and whose entrepreneurship and leadership continue to benefit society tackling chronic diseases through the development of affordable drugs. She is indeed a trailblazer for businesswomen in India and an inspiration for women everywhere.
I have been particularly very inspired by Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President at Women’s World Banking. In the role of CEO, Iskenderian serves as an ambassador for the organisation and the mission of women’s financial inclusion at large. She believes that impact will be greater if every investor and entrepreneur takes a gender lens approach. To accelerate economic participation by women, she rightly said that we need to work on financial inclusion and design products that help women overcome barriers to access and inclusion. And as women entrepreneurs, we all need to catalyse this change.
Have you ever witnessed or faced gender discrimination at work? How did you react to it?
When I was in the banking industry, I experienced my superiors and colleagues assuming that women cannot go for collection for bad loans as they will not be able to recover the debt. But I took it as a challenge and along with my team of all women did a fantastic job by rolling it back and proving them all wrong. We even got recognition and accolades for the same. And, I have witnessed many such cases and that has made me realize that It’s important that we keep on working on D&I to change the way people view roles on the basis of gender.
For more than 11 years, I have been trying to create a culture in my realm by empowering more and more women so that they do not let others define them, their roles in society, and what they can or cannot do.
By creating a better gender balance and having teams that are diverse and inclusive is the only way one can battle gender discrimination at work.
We’re making progress to eliminate gender bias in the workplace by focusing on getting more women in leadership positions in the team, department, and organisation. As business leaders we need to ensure we are actively encouraging women to progress, mitigate bias and make sure that we recruit, retain and promote all genders properly within the industry.
It’s even good for business. Have a look at the global response to COVID-19, female leaders all over the world are shining and how. Women have acted before anyone else in so many cases and maybe because it naturally comes to us. We are empathetic, great at decision-making skills, and great communicators and that’s what makes us great leaders in the time of crisis.
This is an abridged version of the original interview with Waheeda Khan from Bigtruck that appeared in the September issue of the Logistics Insider magazine. Click here to read the complete and unedited interview.