From the importance of representation to doing the unexpected. Chief Data Officer for A.P. Moller – Maersk, Holly Landry, weighs in on being a woman working in logistics.

As a woman, I look forward to the day when we’re talking about the biggest issue of the day and not the challenges with women in… name your industry. But for now, there’s still plenty to be said:

Many industries, leadership teams, sales teams, CEOs, and boards under-represent women in proportion to the population. I find in Denmark paternity leave is taken as seriously as maternity leave, which means men play much larger roles in parenting. This could explain why women at Maersk have made significant progress in the logistics ecosystem, even in unexpected geographies and roles.

Another factor is taking responsibility. Our new CEO, Vincent Clerc, recently appointed an Executive Leadership Team that is diverse by gender, age, experience, and domain. The leaders are from different parts of the globe, with different backgrounds – that level of diversity will play an even bigger role, of which gender is one aspect, as these leaders prove to be role models and give access to what were previously unimaginable possibilities for many. This thrills me.

The importance of representation

When there is representation at the decision-making level, we facilitate change in all parts of the organization and industry. However, this doesn’t only apply to our Executive Team; in Morocco we certified the first female equipment drivers. Similarly, across our biggest concentration of warehouses and ports in the Americas and Asia, we are seeing increased representation of women, and as technology advances with automation and software we will even out the playing field and create even more opportunities for all.

Automation, along with diverse technologies like Computer Vision, Robotics and Digital Twins, completely reset the skills needed, making us able to create even better solutions for our customers because the teams building these solutions come from all areas of the globe with different mindsets and levels of seniority.

Explore the “not expected”

Like many of my female colleagues, my personal path to technology in logistics is a story of “not expected” – in that my family expected me to put my degree in Liberal Arts to good use and become a teacher. I also have no formal tech training and it’s been far from a linear path to logistics and the CDO role I have now. This was never an explicit intention but because I’ve chosen roles on the problems to solve and leader I could learn from.

It may sound like a provocative statement, but I encourage others to let go of promotion expectations and instead be the best at what you’re passionate about, but also what you’re asked to do - especially when it may not align with what you thought you “should” be doing, or what is expected.

My experience has been that this commitment - matching what is needed in the moment with my prior knowledge - supercharges my ability to solve decades old problems in logistics, possibly also because I don’t come at problems with a logistics mindset. In short, commitment to the job at hand is critical and get there in your own way.

Moving the diversity agenda forward

No one woman and arguably women, even when joining together, can change logistics alone. As with any system, those in power need to participate and facilitate the change needed.

Decades of research and data points to the benefits for everyone when they’re part of a more diverse workforce, and yet, most businesses and industries continue to struggle with the opportunity of education, examples to follow, and - importantly - the quality of feedback or mentorship to meet their goals.

Women tend to not solicit and address feedback that isn’t comfortable – this is a generalization, and my experience. The lack of real feedback and representation translates to the inability for all involved to move the diversity agenda forward. To address that, I gently and firmly continue to educate, encourage, mentor, and callout where we need action, change and awareness.

It’s never too early to start. In other industries, in other parts of the world, we see getting to the education system early, we see an increase in STEM. We can leverage, as Maersk did many years ago, training programs to get folks out of primary or upper-level education and into logistics roles, and we can replenish the gaps in skilled workers while also promoting new skills – in other words, we can encourage more women, more people to walk the path of “not expected”.

Who’s Holly?

  • Lifelong learner with an endless curiosity who prefers reading over watching.
  • Has a passion for fly-fishing, adventure travel (remote Amazon forests, African rivers, Patagonia fjords) and all things moving like fast cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.
  • Holly has a Liberal arts degree but has worked as a technology leader for start-ups, then massive global brands in Financial Services, Media and Entertainment, and now within the world of Integrated Logistics.

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