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Why trends for women in logistics are important for your business

Kirsten Tisdale, principal of Aricia Limited, provides a comprehensive overview of the gender pay gap in logistics, and identifies the specific job roles which require addressing.

Kirsten Tisdale.pngDiversity is really important for business. But that’s not a topic I’m going to tackle right now – I’m saving that for next time. This piece is about pay and percentages for women in logistics and expands on the first half of the presentation I was invited to give by Cold Chain Federation CEO, Shane Brennan, as part of one of the People Week webinars in September.

Setting the scene

Logistics is a great sector to work in, but it also has some real issues right now. Everyone has heard about the HGV driver shortage, but you will be aware that there are very large numbers of logistics jobs vacancies across the board in 2021 – about 3x the level at the same time in 2019. Logistics is also not a very profitable sector, with the top 100 companies in the UK only making c2% pre-tax profit.

And, a statistic that readers will be less familiar with, logistics is not viewed as inclusive by the people who actually work in the industry - a Michael Page survey put logistics second to last out of 19 sectors, and the related sector of supply chain & procurement as absolutely last. Clare Bottle, CEO of UKWA, talked at IMHX Connect about the importance of an inclusive workplace as one where diversity can thrive… avoiding the revolving door syndrome. And, as I indicated, I’ll be addressing just how important diversity is in a future article.

The gender pay gap in logistic

There is a gender pay gap in logistics, and in 2018-19* more than three-quarters of logistics companies paid their average man more than their average women, with the mean average hourly rate being in favour of men to the order of about 9.7% - that is, on average, men were paid 9.7% more than women across the logistics sector, although with some huge pay gaps in individual companies. This is actually better than the UK as a whole, where nearly 9 out of 10 companies pay men more, averaging out at 14.2% more.

*For the past four years, the UK government has required larger companies and employers to publish various statistics relating to the pay gap. The reason for using the 2018-19 pay gap submissions is that, at the time of giving the presentation and still at the time of writing this piece at the start of October, that was the year with the most pay gap data submissions, both for the UK generally and for logistics companies. The government made it voluntary to make submissions for 2019-20 because of the pandemic, and extended the deadline for the current year from April to October.

Because logistics has a large proportion of operational staff, where the rate is for a particular job role, the main cause of pay gaps is down to the tendency for the most senior roles to be held by men and, as we’ll see shortly, the most well-paid operational roles also tend to have a much larger proportion of men.

Before we leave pay gaps, there are wider issues than just gender. There are many other pay gaps including, as just one important instance, ethnicity. The Resolution Foundation reported in 2018 that in the UK a black man could expect to earn 19% less than a white man.

Gender pay gap.png


Women represent just over 50% of the population, 47-48% of employees across the UK, and over 46% of car licence holders. So, broadly, women represent half of the population, of employees and of car drivers. But that ‘normality’ changes as soon as we look at logistics.

Although companies don’t report this data as such, it’s easy to calculate the proportion of women in a company from the gender pay gap data that the organisation submits. Looking at different types of larger logistics companies (250+ employees) gives different proportions. Companies which categorise themselves as Storage only have about 26% women, Road Transport only companies have about 16% women, and companies which say they do both have 20% - so 1 in 5.

From a different source, Nomis, which is a service provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to give access to UK labour market statistics, it’s possible to get an average across all UK companies (not just the larger ones) for various occupations. The ONS doesn’t always use the same sorts of words to describe job roles as we do in the industry, so it doesn’t have ‘Pickers’ for example, but it does have ‘Elementary Storage Occupations’, which has just under 16% women, so about 1 in 6. Van Drivers is less at 7% - about 1 in 14 are women.

And we can also look at the better paid roles in both areas – less than 1 in 40 Forklift Truck Drivers are female, and just over 1 in 100 Large Goods Vehicle Drivers. I’ll say that again, only 1 in 100 HGV drivers is a woman. Women do now represent a slightly increased percentage of HGV drivers, moving from 1.1% to 1.4%, but that is no cause for celebration, as the number of women drivers has actually reduced …while the number of men drivers has reduced even faster!

Now, if you’re thinking that being an HGV driver is tough work, then you need to start thinking about how to change that: how to make it easier to unload (why not use warehouse staff to unload heavy rollcages and poorly built pallets using powered handling equipment instead of making the driver struggle with a manual pump truck), easier to change trailers (think access and ease of using suzies, winding legs etc, and replacing with automatic coupling), and easier to access the load (things like pulling back curtains). Women might not be as strong as men in general, but the average age of the male driving workforce is getting older and they will also benefit from improved job ergonomics.

What about managers?

Again this an area where women are under-represented - in transport & storage, only 1 in 4 managers or directors is a woman – worse than the UK in general, where the figure is more than 36%. And the really scary thing is that half of all of those managers and directors in our sector are due to retire in the next 6 years according to LMI for All:

In addition, only 1 in 6 of those in the top quartile of larger logistics companies are women, so the proportion of women as managers could get worse rather than better! NB The top quartile is established by putting everyone, men and women, in a row according to what they earn, and then dividing the line into four quarters – those in the quarter which earns the most is called the top quartile. In the first of the two Cold Chain People webinars, Mark Burrell of Moran Logistics commented that everyone is fishing in the same small pond, not just for drivers and warehouse staff, but including for office and leadership staff.


So, the average woman is paid less than the average man in both logistics and the UK generally, but the area where logistics is really out of step, and in the wrong direction, is in the proportion of women employed. In my next piece for SHD Logistics, I’m going to address why diversity is so important for businesses, and also what we can all do to help improve that balance, but in the meantime, you can watch the two webinars that formed Cold Chain People, including my own contribution, here:

Kirsten Tisdale is principal of Aricia Limited, the logistics consulting company she established in 2001, specialising in strategic projects needing analysis and research. Kirsten is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport and has a track record helping companies with logistics decisions.


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