‘Still many barriers to overcome in air cargo’

The logistics and supply chain industry has been considered a male-dominated bastion for a long time. However, there has been a realization of the importance of gender diversity even in the most gender-biased societies and communities, including this industry.

This realisation has come a long way since the time when I worked in the cargo and logistics business at Swissair 40 years ago. Our Swiss Manager wanted to have women in the cargo department, and we were among the first airlines to have women on the ramp and working across shifts in Mumbai. It was a time when we did not have separate restrooms for women, the insides of cupboards had female model pinups, I had to drive old Bedford trucks within airport areas and women had to wear skirts instead of trousers, which was inconvenient for their work requirements.

Manual work was prevalent during that time, which involved breaking cargo manually, using torches at night to read labels, and working in all kinds of weather. As a woman working under the aircraft, I had to lift heavy sills of MD-11 aircraft to prove my worthiness of being on the ramp duty, while no male was asked to do so. Male managers resisted promotions for women as they felt that it was not a woman’s job, and we had to prove our competence continuously. However, I was fortunate to have great support from my family, especially my mother and husband. They encouraged me to pursue my career, and my husband willingly took over parenting chores of a three-month old infant when I had to be away.

Working up from the grass-root level has helped me gain experience in various aspects of freight and logistics. This is very valuable even now when as a Business Coach in this industry, I partner with organizations in the logistics and e-commerce sector and help them take their businesses to the next level. My journey has been challenging but rewarding and never boring. The many risks, such as moving into business strategy and coaching in a male-dominated area of this industry, have been worth it. Although the logistics and supply chain industry has come a long way, acceptance of women in leadership roles is still challenging. Even today, women coaches are sometimes introduced as trainers or teachers, which does not do justice to their field of work and contribution to the organization. T

his is slowly changing, and some organizations are accepting women in leadership roles without bias. Technological advancements have helped level the playing field
across genders. Automation, AI, social media marketing, and robotics have
opened up opportunities for women to excel in this industry.

Although there have been improvements, there are still many barriers that women need to overcome in this industry. The major challenge is the male mindset, especially in India, where women have to prove themselves constantly. We are assertive and not aggressive when we speak our mind. We are not timid or ineffective if we are quietly going about our job as examples. Women need to be supported by their families to grow and make a successful career, just like men. Training and skill development are critical to helping women find an equal place at work, get equal pay and opportunities, as well as respect and recognition. A women-friendly work environment is
necessary to help women excel in this industry. Nose to the grindstone, ready to face challenges on an everyday basis, confidence, and willingness to grow your skillset will guarantee great success in our industry. After all, is not that what comes naturally to us?