December 08, 2019
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    Opportunities for women of the future Featured

    June 30, 2019

    The world is engaged in an act of gender balancing and industries and career paths which were stereotyped as male dominated fields are now fast becoming women centred.Due to this, there are many opportunities for women in the logistics industry, and Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) Sri Lanka is promoting and empowering more women to join this promising industry, WiLAT Chairperson Gayathri Karunanayake says. However, the education system should support the changing global demand and thereby include logistics as a subject even at school level, to produce knowledgeable youth and encourage them to join the industry, Gaythri said in an interview with Business Observer.It is necessary to create an awareness of the logistics industry as it will be an industry which will be an essential and important component in the country’s economic drive, she said.
    Excerpts:
    Q. What is the role of WiLART in promoting women in the logistics industry?
    A. Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) Sri Lanka is the Women’s Forum of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Sri Lanka. WiLAT Sri Lanka was inaugurated on March 2013. It is one of the five pioneering fora in ‘WiLAT global’. With the vision to be the most sought after for advocacy, professionalism and empowerment of women in the supply chain, in logistics and transport, it has a mission to promote the status of women in the sector, to bring together those who support talent and career development of women and to provide a support network and mentoring opportunities for women in the industry.
    Our Global Convenor, who sits on the CILT International Management Committee is responsible for the growth and development of WiLAT internationally and for coordinating our annual global conference. Regional coordinators promote the interests of women in their region and encourage membership.
    Country groups work with and on behalf of women at local level, organising events, providing local support and networking opportunities, and representing women within the local (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Council.
    I was part of WiLAT from the beginning serving as the Treasurer and then Vice Chairperson responsible for sponsorship and branding. WiLAT empowers and promotes women in logistics. We don’t find significant representation of women in the industry as only 3 percent are involved at present. The industry is considered a male dominated field. We are slowly changing this perception.
    Q. What is WiLAT’s contribution to develop the logistics industry?
    A. We hope to improve women’s participation in the field of logistics. I consider my experience in this sector to be a guideline. When I got my first job in 2006 as a Trainee Logistics Manager, my parents had doubts about long term prospects as it was difficult for a female to climb the career ladder in this industry.However, I progressed well despite the challenging environment and I have gained confidence through WiLAT to inspire others. Mentorship is also an important component in WiLAT’s way forward. We have taken the initiative in mentoring university graduates.
    Most of the university students are clueless as to what path they need to choose. We groom these students and build up confidence in them in facing interviews. We have taken this call seriously. This is our fifth year in operation. We have taken up mentoring students with regard to supply chain management and logistics. We believe that it is necessary for the authorities to include this sector as a subject in the school curricula as students will have an opportunity to learn and be knowledgeable about the industry and make an informed decision when it comes to selecting a career path. Our network of professionals has come up voluntarily to mentor students and we have a team of 50 such mentors. I personally have three students under my wing. We conduct 50 to 60 programs on yearly basis. These programs include success stories and inspirational speeches for the aspiring youth.
    Q. What are your plans for this year in terms of attracting young blood in to the industry?
    A. This year we want to re-band our organisation. We would like to see logistics as a subject in the study program in the school curriculum. We will work towards attracting school leavers in to the industry by educating them regarding logistics to enable them to gain related knowledge.We specially want to help the school leavers. To this end we will be talking to Colombo National schools to create an awareness among them. Women empowerment is an integral part of our work. Currently the executive committee has university students and trying to empower these female students to take the leadership. As being in the logistics industry was a boost to my career, and as WiLAT we take serious voluntary effort to attract more women in to the industry.
    Though, logistics by nature is a man’s job and had to undergo a lot of tension, women get a lot of advantages by joining the sector. As women are multi-taskers, being a woman it is easier to manage the job. I believe that women can emit a lot of positive vibes. Throughout my life I have been giving positive energy to people. Our organisation has been doing a lot of good to society. The WiLAT is in 32 countries and Sri Lanka WiLAT is an active body. It can say that WiLAT is booming. We have a big membership numbering 516 members. We will be focusing on revamping mentorship programs.We try to move away from Colombo and spread our programs to key cities such as Kandy and Galle. We are helping CILT in their membership drive to grow and to build up the second line. We are well focused on this and carry out field events to see supply chain and visibility improvements.As I work for one of the largest logistics centres in the country in terms of infrastructure and capacity which provides internship for the trainees to progress in their careers, I whole heartedly support these youth.
    Q. How is the world logistics industry progressing?
    A. The world logistics industry has a better women participation. However, there are no statistics to prove this. There is a massive drive to promote women in every sphere. A lot of multi national companies are looking at empowering women to reach at least 50 percent gender equality. The world logistics industry is moving towards artificial intelligence (AI) and 3 D printing level to reach optimal productivity.
    Q. What are the changes that Sri Lankan industry needs to reach the next level of growth?
    A. What Sri Lankan logistics industry needs to do is to stick to the basics. By this way the country can get in to any kind of improvement soon. This is the best way to catch up what we have missed in terms of technology and innovation. Sri Lanka has a lot of good brains.
    Q. What will be the role of the South Asian regional WiLAT group?
    A. Our country is at a good location. If the country works towards the right direction the things will fall into line soon. The WiLAT which work towards the tag line of ‘stronger together’ is the success factor. We are in the South Asian region with India and Pakistan associations. There are more countries in this group. Efforts are underway to mentor Bangladesh to be a part of WiLAT. During my visit to Bangladesh I have taken the concept of mentorship program to encourage them to be a part in WiLAT family. This will be a remarkable opportunity. We need to clarify one thing. Mentoring programs will not necessarily lead to securing jobs. The programs carried out for university students should be focus on opportunities that will lead to career prospects. This is a message that I like to give to the young who have passed out recently. It is not one path, but many opportunities. I enjoy this job because I teach something to someone every day. My passion is to promote Sri Lankan logistics industry.
    Q. How do you see the logistics industry during the next five years?
    A. The logistics industry in Sri Lanka is very promising. We will get a lot of opportunities in time to come. However, we need to get on to the right track. There will be more business opportunities from a lot of countries with eminent powers which could not fulfill their demands.Logistics is a very ‘happening job’ and a developing industry. As Sri Lanka is an island we can do many things in this sector in moving forward. We could see a trend in many universities especially with Logistics learning and Degree programs are entering the country.There are better opportunities for better careers. The industry will progress to ensure goods are transported faster and in an efficient manner. This will augur well as the present day consumers are powerful and demanding. They are very much concerned about time other than the quality aspect. Low cost and greater innovation will facilitate the country’s logistics industry.

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