Amber Tan, PLG's General Manager, is on a mission to shed old perceptions that the logistics sector is all about physical competency. In this interview with Aditi Sharma Kalra, she talks about her personal career challenges as well as women leadership initiatives taken at PLG.
In a study conducted by Novosensus in September 2020, it was revealed that:
- Women within the logistics industry feel about 10% less recognised than their male counterparts in the workplace
- They trusted their leaders about 8% less than men did, rating their leaders much lower than males in general
- Finally, women rated their own self-confidence at the workplace to be about 15% lower than men, feeling 22% less optimistic at work with regards to their own abilities
Evidently, a more inclusive and diverse workplace is required, which is further bolstered by the jarring fact that only 13% of senior leadership positions within the logistics industry are held by women.
Pacific Logistics Group (PLG), one of the fastest-growing logistics and freight forwarding companies in the region, is making real progress towards addressing this issue. The organisation currently has 61 female employees, 22 of which were employed over the last 10 months. Additionally, 11 women hold leadership positions within the organisation.
Each one of these women have experienced their fair share of difficulties, challenges, and setbacks within this still predominantly male-dominated industry. In fact, Rebecca Lim, the wife of PLG's Founder and currently the Business Development Director, admits to having undergone moments of having felt undermined within this sector.
Nevertheless, the organisation remains steadfast in its support to women, with mentorship programmes and employee engagement to ensure a sustainable and diverse environment within the office.
Against this backdrop, Human Resources Online spoke exclusively to Amber Tan, General Manager, Pacific Logistics Group to understand how the organisation is addressing the sector's gender inequality challenges and stereotypes.
Amber joined Pacific Logistics Group (PLG) in June 2018 with more than 22 years of experience in international freight forwarding, supply chain and logistics. At PLG, she is responsible for the monitoring, implementation, and formulation of standard operational procedures to increase productivity. She pushes her staff to go above and beyond to achieve a high level of customer service satisfaction and return on profit.
Read on for the interview excerpts:
Q Within the logistics industry, what are the current challenges facing greater gender representation in leadership as well as line positions?
Conventional perceptions and biases related to gender representation still exists. The logistics industry has always been associated as a physically demanding. This has given the impression that the logistics industry is not as suitable a professional pursuit for women.
Regardless, today’s logistics industry is evolving, with focus on digitalisation and automation of processes. This sheds old perceptions that the industry is purely about physical competency. It is slowly improving, with greater receptivity towards women in the logistics field.
Q Did you personally face these challenges as well as you moved up the ranks? What are your experiences and lessons through your career moving up the ranks?
There were instances in the past where male peers were favoured by management teams for promotion due to honing skillsets perceivably advantageous to men.
My personal experience has taught me that demonstrating innovative thinking and creative problem-solving enables me to learn and grow as my career progresses. Technology and digitalisation drive today’s logistics industry and the scope of work goes beyond just physically demanding requirements.
Women can contribute to the logistics industry in their own ways and should not be discouraged. Think positive, move on from failures, and know that when one door closes, another door opens.
Q How do you perceive Singapore’s supply chain and logistics industry can stand to improve in terms of gender diversity?
Today’s supply chain and logistics industry is multi-faceted in both depth and breadth of services with the integration of technology across processes. This requires talents with more diversified attributes. It is a great opportunity for women to show their strengths, in their own ways.
Women serve as great communicators with empathy and emotional intelligence. This can be strategic in establishing tighter connections with stakeholders, be it colleagues or clients, in everyday work to deliver lasting professional impact to clients.
As the needs of today’s supply chain and logistics industry continue to evolve, it is a matter of when the workplace becomes a more diverse environment.
Q Accordingly, how are you leading the way at PLG? What are some programmes you have put in place to encourage more women leadership?
Here at PLG, individual promotions within practices and functions are based on merit. Likewise, in the hiring process, the focus is on evaluating individuals – in their openness and attitude to the work, regardless of gender.
For training, we utilise regular training sessions and mentorships. This is particularly helpful for women working in PLG because the mentorship ensures they recognise their individual strengths and how it contributes to the organisation.
We do not see the need to put gender as a means of identifying one’s professional position, and there is no preferential treatment. This attitude too applies for the PLG leadership, where gender is not the factor or criteria.
Q Are you consciously tracking the results and milestones of these programmes? Where do you stand at the moment?
There are no specific programmes as we do not see it necessary to put gender as a professional prefix.
I would like to share an experience in mentoring one of our female logistics professionals here at PLG. This employee graduated with a degree majoring in supply-chain and logistics. When she first started this role with us, we could see her potential through her strong attitude and passion to improve. In mentoring her, it opened her to new opportunities here in PLG through more comprehensive and targeted training to certain areas.
Likewise, regular follow-ups are done to track her performance and to give her training tailored to her personal career track. The follow-ups complement existing quarterly and yearly individual reviews, where we discuss areas for personal improvement.
Q While talking about the results, what are some benefits PLG has reaped from encouraging a gender diverse environment?
In general, this cultivation of empathy, emotional intelligence and problem-solving attributes now complement the conventional logistics skillsets needed here in PLG. To put this into perspective, these attributes were demonstrated in daily operation management for one of our food & beverage clients as part of making their delivery, routing, and inventory planning more effective.
Q Going forward, what are your future plans for more sustainable and diverse employment?
PLG continues to be an inclusive employer and is open to hiring individuals across all stages in their career journeys – regardless of gender, age, or industry. A fair number of our hires do not have expertise in the logistics field, but the diversity of backgrounds offers us new perspectives into how we can improve across the organisation. Be it in people management, key account resourcing, or any logistic-specific domain expertise, what matters is the individual’s attitude and willingness to learn.
Leadership starts from within. By proactively leading ourselves, we set direction. As a mentor, one will not lead others effectively without being clear on the direction. This is an opportunity for creative problem solvers and innovative thinkers to come forth, to set a direction. All this sets in place the foundations and framework for more sustainable and diverse employment here in PLG.
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