Inside Logistics

Challenging the status quo

Female leaders prescribe antidotes to inequity in the workplace


April 20, 2021
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As part of our International Women’s Day 2021 celebration, Inside Logistics hosted a webinar to take a look at one of the persistent challenges in supply chain human resources: female representation, leadership and compensation.

Tara Migneault, director of distribution operations at Giant Tiger

Tara Migneault, director of distribution operations at Giant Tiger; Michelle Arseneau, managing partner at GX Transportation Solutions; Jacqueline Boudreau, manager, cargo services Atlantic Canada at Air Canada; and Pina Melchionna, president and CEO of CITT were the panellists, joining moderator Julia Kuzeljevich, public affairs manager at Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association.

It’s a perpetual paradox: women as a group possess numerous attributes that make them valuable employees and leaders. Yet they are seemingly stuck with lower wages and less representation in leadership positions than men in most industries.

Numbers tell the story, from a lingering 20 percent salary differential, to the low rates of female representation in boardrooms (see main story), and high unemployment among female university graduates in the sciences.

But, just because a situation has persisted, doesn’t mean it cannot be changed. As women who all work in the field, our panellists offered insights and suggestions to upset the status quo. Here are some gems of advice the panel shared with the industry, individual companies, managers and women working in the field.

Personal responsibility

Pina Melchionna, president and CEO of CITT

Pina Melchionna: Women have to take the lead when it comes to their own training and development, they can’t leave it to their manager. Make the conscious choice to invest in yourself. Be your own advocate. Be bold. Don’t sell yourself short; let employers know you are upwardly mobile.

Tara Migneault: Get involved. Become an expert, then put yourself out there and teach somebody else to do that job.That’s going to show your leadership skills if you want to move up. When a job becomes comfortable it’s time to find a new challenge.

Education

Michelle Arseneau: We need to focus on the elementary [school] level and really humanize supply chain so women are more interested.

Recruiting

Michelle Arseneau, managing partner at GX Transportation Solutions

Melchionna: With the goal of deepening the talent pool, sometimes you need to take a chance and hire on attitude not skills. Skills can be taught, but attitude is ingrained.  

Arseneau: Recruitment strategies, particularly in the trucking industry, are not geared towards women; they are primarily geared towards men. When we are recruiting women we need to talk about what jobs entail. Long-haul truck driving, for example, is not for everyone, but there are lots of trucking jobs that will appeal to women who want to continue looking after kids or share parenting responsibilities with a partner.

Compensation

Jacqueline Boudreau: We need competitive salaries, especially for single mothers. We need good benefits, flexibility and parental leave.

Melchionna: Women tend to lowball themselves compared to men. Salary transparency makes companies squeamish, but it really helps people know what they are worth.

Leadership

Arseneau: There aren’t enough women in leadership positions in supply chain and logistics. If we really want to tap into that market and bring more women into the industry – into the positions where we have labour shortages – we need to have more women at the C-level in leadership. These women will pave the way for other women to follow.

Melchionna: Women and men have different leadership styles. Men tend to be more transactional, while women are transformational. One style isn’t better than another, both are needed. The best leaders will tell you they encourage new ideas and debate; innovation comes not when people agree, but when there are differences of opinion.

Combatting overt sexism

Jacqueline Boudreau, manager, cargo services Atlantic Canada at Air Canada

Migneault: The biggest obstacle is that women with ideas or opinions are seen as bossy or pushy, while men with the same traits are seen as assertive and effective. We need to remove preconceived notions of gender specific jobs.

Boudreau: Experiencing sexism at work gave me more determination to succeed. I turned it into a positive and used it to fuel my drive for success.

Mentoring

Arseneau: Mentoring is very, very important. It’s always easier to navigate the path that’s already been cleared. There are many successful women out there who are willing to share their experiences.

Melchionna: “Allyship” is growing in importance alongside mentorship. Allyship means having allies who will bring your name forward, and say “this is a person worthy of development”. We need allies in addition to mentors.