The occupational gender gap is a highly complex and debated issue, up to the levels of UN WOMEN. Alisped is at the forefront against it, aiming to support what we could call A-gender Logistics: the overcoming of gender-based logistics where the main aspects to be evaluated, such as talent and commitment, are not specific to any gender.
We interviewed Laura Taraborrelli, Sales Manager in Alisped Logistics, who gave us her point of view about this topic, with special focus on Alisped’s vision and values.
Laura, could you tell us what your role in Alisped is?
«My job description tells “Business Development & Supply Chain Design”. It means that every day I encourage and support Alisped’s growth: I look for companies who have logistics issues or want to improve their potential and try to be part of the solution. We start a conversation, then a collaboration and finally we become partners.
I suppose the proper definition is “Growth hacker”: someone who fully integrates a valuable project, an appropriate communication and a solid data analysis in order to find effective solutions aimed at the company’s growth.
In short, I sell effective solutions to clients who need them.»
Logistics is usually considered a male-dominated industry, both for operational and managerial roles. Which are the real challenges a woman can possibly have to face in order to build a career path in logistics?
Logistics had in past times a “muscular” connotation: it was seen as a tough job in a hard work environment (very hot or very cold, exhausting shifts) with difficult negotiations and rude people. This brings back a job profile not in line with the standard of femininity. But we are talking about a mindset which is further and further away from reality.
In recent times, operational roles achieved a different connotation and became less challenging from physical point of view. Many warehouse operations can be successfully carried out by both men and women, as physical effort is now delegated to technologies and, fortunately, people can give a contribution of increasing relevance.
As per staff roles, women are still a minority but, in my opinion, there’s no real foreclosure for them. Each company with its own style and timing, women are finding their own space. Women’s interest in the so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is increasing – as demonstrated by Massachussetts Institute of Technology statistics –, professional networks are growing, women are qualifying their roles.
We have far to go if we want to improve the situation of welfare and social organization, but the overall direction to take is rather clear.»
In the context of the Supply Chain, some people think that typical feminine skills and talents can be an added value. Which roles enhance a feminine approach? Which are indistinctly accessible to both men and women? And which can be a bit more critical, instead?
«We must consider two key aspects of logistics: on one side, technology facilitates activities so that operators have to rely less on physical effort; on the other side, the market demands more and more innovation and rewards companies which can reinvent themselves. That means that logistics operators must be able to design specific solutions, offer competitive resources and focus on quality rather than on volumes. That being said, there are many roles women can excel in: activities where accuracy, manual skills, organization, empathy and willingness to listen are key. These are not feminine skills only, but experience comes to confirm that women often represent them well and they are very useful in logistics. It’s up to women to capitalize them to grow and progress, relying also on expertise, initiative, discipline and willingness to improve. This is true in logistics as in any other industry.»
Talking about men’s and women’s employment in logistics, it has been said that “if a person is prepared, there’s no difference” (source). What are your thoughts about it? How did you manage to develop a well-balanced relationship with your interlocutors and with the organizations you happened to work with?
«I’ve been in the Supply Chain business for several years, usually dealing with solution design and business development, working with male interlocutors mainly, i.e. colleagues, clients, suppliers. I’ve learnt that dialogue can be precious indeed, even in such an unbalanced industry. Obviously, it must be managed and adjusted according to circumstances.
Sometimes roles and skills are immediately accepted, and so mutual growth is easily achieved. On the contrary, in more hostile environments it’s better to be professional, focus on contents and not on interlocutors. Being logistics traditionally a male-dominated sector, powers and responsibilities are still and mainly a male prerogative. However, I think it’s better not to engage in a claim of gender, but to recognize and value talent and commitment, wherever they come from; to foster dialogue, ask for feedbacks and make them count, to be self-critical and rely on ourselves.»
You experience the world of logistics every day inside Alisped Logistics. How could you describe the company’s approach to the gender gap issue? Could you tell us which organizational choices have been made?
«Since the very beginning, Alisped demonstrated a considerable openminded approach: the basic idea behind any organizational choice is that talent and commitment bring added value to the company, no matter who is the employee proposing ideas: man or woman, with or without children.
I have started working at Alisped in October 2020, right after parental leave, and we engaged to make the company grow, being mutually committed in this development challenge.
Besides, 90% of Alisped warehouse staff are women: young women of different nationalities, with very specific skills. The company decided to provide customers with real differentiating solutions and that’s why we invested in staff training. In our business, women are main part of our staff because above-mentioned skills such as accuracy and manual skills are precious and they can perfectly put them into practice.»
The distribution of responsibilities and opportunities inside a company or organization reflects its values and strategic vision. What kind of atmosphere can we figure out at Alisped Logistics? What are the employees’ perceptions regarding their roles and opportunities to grow? «The values and mission of the company, also made clear through resources organization, have a strong impact on the individual approach, as well as on relationships and working mood. People working at Alisped Logistics, who are mainly women, know that their professionality is properly recognized: they are rewarded when they do a good job and trained when a greater specialization may be necessary. At Alisped, gender is not an element of judgement, and it is not relevant for one’s professional career.»