Women in Logistics: Resiliency Amid Challenges

Women are resilient, especially those in the logistics industry.

For the past four years, Redwood has held an event dedicated to uplifting and recognizing women in our industry: Women in Logistics. This year, we focused on the theme of resiliency. With the pandemic having a profound impact on the supply chain, as well as the careers of women overall, we felt it was important to spend time discussing lessons learned over the past year and a half, while also supporting a local nonprofit that aligned with our mission – Girls Inc.

As of this year, women comprise 41% of the supply chain workforce, a 2% increase from 2020. The same study by Gartner found one of the biggest challenges to be retaining midcareer women, and only 15% holding C-suite level positions.

While there’s still much work to be done, supply chain organizations are prioritizing attracting, developing, retaining, and advancing women and supporting a diverse and inclusive work environment.


From then to now

The 2021 Women in Logistics webinar opened with a fireside chat, featuring Michelle Livingstone, former VP of Transportation at The Home Depot, and Marissa Campise, Founder of Rucker Park Capital.

Michelle’s supply chain story began at Indiana University, where she majored in transportation. Inspired by her father’s career, she confidently completed her degree as one of only six women in the major.

“There was a big emphasis back then to attract women in the industry, just as there is today.” – Michelle Livingstone

During their conversation, Michelle and Marissa discussed the range of opportunities supply chain can offer. From HR to finances to carriers to marketing and sales – there’s numerous paths which invites and supports a diverse workforce.


Sponsorship vs. mentorship

Mentorship: The guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution.

Sponsorship: The position or function of a person or group who vouches for, supports, advises, or helps fund another person or an organization or project.

It’s common career advice for those just starting out or seeking advancement opportunities, to find a trustworthy mentor. While mentors can be beneficial in learning the ropes, networking, and overcoming obstacles, it’s just as important to seek out sponsors.

Having “someone willing to go to bat for you when you’re not in the room,” as Michelle noted, is critical to advancing in the workplace.

Among many other benefits, sponsors can help to:

  • Meet executive-level challenges. At some stage in your career, you may hit a wall, struggling to determine the right next step. A sponsor can help you work through those challenges, identify ways to navigate issues, and offer wisdom and guidance.
  • Make strategic decisions. Making a big, potentially career-changing decision can feel impossible without support. A sponsor will be there to help you determine which decision is not only best for you, but best for your career and company.
  • Recognize strengths and weaknesses. Mentors can help you improve your skillset, but sponsors are more likely to identify your strengths while also calling out weaknesses. Everyone has areas they can improve, but understanding when to take the lead and when to take a step back is a lesson worth learning.
  • Gain visibility. It can be hard to speak up in a room full of executives and make your voice heard, especially if you have a differing opinion. Having someone in the room that’s willing to speak up with you, for you, and in your place when you’re not around, can be a big difference in climbing the career ladder and remaining on the ground.
  • Create a community. Sponsors will likely encourage you to get involved with internal associate groups, whether it’s women-centered or not. This can help you build a trust network beyond your sponsor and mentors.


Leading with style

During the second half of the event, we heard from a panel of industry experts, including: Megan Fortenberry, Director, Technology & Continuous Improvement for RWI Logistics; Madhuri Rao, VP Business Strategy, Finance, Analytics at Production Resource Group; Anne Reinke, President & CEO of The Transportation Intermediaries Association; and Christina Ryan, Executive Vice President of Managed Services for Redwood Logistics.

They discussed the different types of leadership styles and approaches they’ve found most beneficial, as well as how they’ve navigated the many different challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic introduced. From getting out of their comfort zones to asking hard questions, the panel offered helpful insight and advice for those tuning in.

“The skills that it took to become a leader are not always the same skills that will be used as a leader.” – Anne Reinke


Strong, smart & bold

This event aimed to raise awareness of diversity in the logistics industry, while also supporting life-changing programs and experiences that inspire girls. Girls Inc. was selected as this year’s charity of choice, as it inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

You can donate and learn more about Girls Inc. here.

Want to watch the recording or share with a colleague? Check it out here.