Career Opportunities for Women In Logistics and Transport
By Carolyn Akum Ufere
This initiative without gainsaying is another platform to draw the attention of women particularly in Nigeria to the avalanche of opportunities in the logistics and transport industry using the maritime industry as a case study.
The transport industry is multi-modal covering road, air, sea, pipeline, rail modes of transportation. The process whether of cargo or human from start to finish begins from the point of origin to the point of destination, within a defined scope and expected outcomes that is satisfactory to both customers and communities.
As identified, the transport industry is dynamic with diverse range of career options, from both transportation of raw materials to all types of manufactured goods and specialised services.
Transportation being a derived demand, is a 24/7 industry.
Logistics on the other hand, is the planning, implementation and controlling the flow and storage of materials and services in concert to related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption. Therefore, logistics and transportation are intertwined. One size does not fit all and logistics identifies the processes needed to be put in place to draw together all aspect and ensure an integrated outcome.
Career Opportunities for Women in Logistics and Transport Workforce:
The transport and logistics sector is described as non-traditional for women because the industry employs mostly men and the task undertaken are seen as masculine. Therefore, the difficulties faced by women working in the transport and logistics sector are recognized as different from women working in the traditional areas.
The years 1976 to 1985 were designated the United Nations Decade for Women. This period represents the period of awakening during which many organizations including Governmental and non-Governmental bodies raised the consciousness of the international community towards the important role of women in the development agenda of many nations. During this period, a number of programs were put in place to attain gender equality and women empowerment.
The needed impetus was given to these developments in the year 2000 when the leaders of the world re-emphasized the importance of empowering women by setting as one of the eight pillars of the Millennium Development Goals “the need to promote gender equality and promote women”.
When the success of the MDG’s will be assessed in 2015, the activities of the Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT) would go down as one of the landmarks of women empowerment in the maritime sector in Nigeria. On the continent of Africa, these activities have redefined the scope and reach of the industry and presented new opportunities for the active participation of countries that were hitherto considered non-traditional maritime nations.
Currently, the Federal Government’s directive on 35 per cent government appointment to women is fully implemented on which I am a beneficiary of such a turning point in the Maritime Sector as the first female Port Manager of the 100-year-old premier port (Rivers Port Complex, Port-Harcourt) in the Eastern part of Nigeria and the second oldest in the country.
How active are Women in the Maritime Industry in Nigeria
The maritime industry is admittedly one of the male-dominated careers in the industry today. The explanation is quite obvious in the past (and even now), maritime jobs on board vessels and in the port environment required physical strength. Therefore, society prohibited women from participating in the industry, especially at the operational level. The involvement of women was thus limited to secretarial, manifest keying and invoicing roles, and these were largely administrative and dominantly shore-based.
With the passage of time, technology has changed the boundaries and what used to be limitations are now challenges and opportunities. Today, there are women regardless of the numbers working in virtually every facet of the industry. There are women ship captains, pilot officers, charterer, brokers, port managers, managers of concession terminals, operations managers, freight forwarders, ship chandlers, aircraft pilots, marine engineers, long distant drivers etc.
Mention must be made of women who have attained prominence at the national and international levels, such as: Dr. (Mrs.) Kema Chikwe, who was Minister of Transport 1999-2000, and Minister of Aviation 2000-2003; Mrs. Mfon Usoro a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and current Secretary General of the Abuja MOU (Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for West and Central African Region); Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, who was Minister of Transport 2007-2008, and now Minister of Petroleum; Mrs. Fidelia Njeze,sMinister of Aviation in 2010 and Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein; Princess Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi, who is the current Minister of Aviation; and Ms. Gbemi Saraki, who was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Marine Transport.
Furthermore, we cannot overlook the giant strides made by women in the port industry, such as: Ms. Aina Egharevha, who was Port Manager of RORO Port, Lagos Port Complex and the first female Executive Director Marine and Operations, Nigerian Ports Authority; Ms. Adenike Sonaike, General Manager, Western Ports; Mrs. Lizzy Obvude, Managing Director, Ports & Terminal Operators Limited (PTOL), Port Harcourt; Princess Vicky Haastrup, Managing Director, ENL Consortium, Lagos Port Complex, Apapa; Mrs. Ify Akerele, the pioneer and current Director-General of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping; and Late Mrs. Joseph Damilola of Josephdam Terminal, Tin-Can Island Port (TCIP).
I must not fail to salute the courage of the founder and President of the Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT), Nigeria, Hajiya Aisha Ali-Ibrahim, for the birth of this noble Association.
Provisions to sustain Women in the Industry
It is common knowledge that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has since 1988 developed a clear strategy for the integration of women into the maritime sector. This is fostered by the IMO Women in Development Programme.
The strategy of this programme aims to:
1. Integrate women into mainstream maritime activities;
2. Increase the percentage into women at senior management levels within the maritime sector;
3. Consolidate the integration of women in the maritime sector as an integral element of IMO’s technical co-operation activities.
Mention must also be made of the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) establishment of the Women forum at the biennial Conference held in Jerusalem in 2011. It is interesting to note that the immediate past President of IAPH was a woman Dr. Geraldine Knatz, who is the Executive Director, Los Angeles Port, United States America (USA). This was to encourage more women participation in the maritime industry.
In spite of the above efforts, there are some cultural factors hindering or mitigating against women from active participation in the industry. This is usually in from of some traditional belief and value system in the upbringing of the male and female child. The female child is brought up subconsciously with the future role of a home-maker and nurturer irrespective of her future chosen career.
This added natural role has indirectly toughened or strengthened the women to be ardent multi-taskers.
Therefore, I charge the women folk to accept this traditional role as an added advantage rather than a burden and forge ahead.
Harnessing the Opportunities
As indicated earlier in this paper there are enormous opportunities for women in the Maritime sector. It is however imperative to add that the advent of globalization and multi-modalism has taken the concept of international transportation beyond the sea leg and has also taken account of the very important ingredient of logistics. Thus, the scopes of opportunities have been widened even further. The sector is therefore attracting professionally competent women (as well as men) who have transferred from other careers to various shore-based maritime jobs.
To enable women harness the enormous potential that exists in the field of international trade and transport, it would be necessary to address issues relating to the following.
1. Building strong partnerships of women. (Thus the establishment of Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT) and the Women’s International Trade and Shipping Association (WISTA) is highly commendable.)
2. Strengthening the legal and institutional framework for affirmative action. The Federal Government directive on 35 per cent affirmative action on women appointment should be legislated;
3. Strengthening Maritime Training Institutions and adopting research or curricular to meet the emerging needs in the sector.
There is no gainsaying the important role women play in the socio-economic development of our communities. Increasingly, women are finding their place in the top echelons of the Logistics and Transport industry in Nigeria. From difficult operational areas considered as the exclusive preserve of men to “dashboard” services, women are showing their capacities and competences.
Indeed, as pointed out by the IMO Secretary General, the full and equal participation of women in civil, cultural, economic, political and social life, at the national, regional and international levels and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of gender are and must remain priority objectives of the Federal Government.
This is a clarion call for all of us to have the firm conviction that no society can attain the goals of sustainable development and accelerated growth, create an equitable society and meet the aspirations of its people without taking into account the productive capacities of women, their resilience and aptitude for creating a better life for all. The time for empowerment and harnessing the potential is now.
Above all, working in the logistics and transport industry (maritime sector), I fully understand the challenges women can face, and it is our ambition to reach out to these women to instill our industry expertise, and give women the confidence to grow and reach the senior management positions in their chosen filed in Logistics and Transport.
Mrs. Carolyn Akum Ufere, Port Manager, Rivers Port Complex (RPC), Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, presented this paper at the maiden Women in Logistics and Transport (WILAT) Nigeria Day celebration in Abuja May 16, 2013.