Chaitaly Mehta, Director, EFK Global Logistics and Member – Managing Committee Member, ACAAI, pens down a column for Apace Digital Cargo on “Women in Logistics”

There is so much of a buzz around women in Logistics that I wonder sometimes that didn’t we women work in Logistics at all? Yes, we did but I don’t think anyone ever noticed us or even maybe we didn’t want to get noticed and maybe a multitude of reasons we didn’t have many women at the top level? My first brush with a woman of power and substance was when I met Mrs Meera Juneja of KLM some 25 years ago at a meeting and seeing all the men go Oh Meera Oh Meera made me wonder then too what’s so special about her? She is just working like anyone else. Little did I know about how powerful she was or more importantly the work she did. On the other hand, we had women like Vasu Aunty, Farida Aunty, Roshan Aunty, Neelam and Shanti – all powerful women working in the airlines AI, CX and LX respectively making a difference to our shipments sometimes even without knowing how powerful they were. These ladies to me represent Equality, Diversity and Strength and with Grace. They got work done that even their male counterparts sometimes had difficulties getting done. They appeased hard core agents whose shipments were buggered up and not even once did they hide by not answering calls or avoiding calls or making excuses.

When I was asked to write on this topic they are the first ones I thought of because these ladies even though they may not realise showed me through their actions – to be true and more importantly acceptance that no matter what happens, how bad your boss is or client gets, no matter how much deep trouble you are in because the shipment is royally messed up- you stay true , accept the punch on your chin and move on. More importantly the passion I am always told I have? it comes partially from them.

Today for the first time ever at the ACAAI convention we are having a separate session on Women in Logistics and all the women panellists are not fluff but hardcore who have made it because of their sweat, grit and sacrifices. I am so proud because I feel I have come full circle from having started as a novice with absolutely zero knowledge to now moderating a session for Women of the Air Cargo Industry. 

I am grateful and thankful to the President and ACAAI Convention Committee for having this session and hope that it will continue for the future conventions too. 

Do I believe this industry is right for Women? Yes, definitely.

Do I believe this industry can produce good women leaders? Yes, definitely 

Do I believe this industry is safe for women? Yes, Yes and Yes. 

But can Women do justice to this industry and produce the results? Yes, they can but it is not easy.

We have more failures than successes but when they succeed, they shine. 

Why failures? Can we use another word? Maybe but in the eyes of the industry they didn’t just cut it or make it. It is true of Men too. For women it is more tough because of the multiple roles they play, especially these 3 triple roles they play – Mother, Wife and then Career Woman. Logistics industry is one of the 3 most mentally taxing and high-pressure industries, the others in my opinion being Medical and Defence. These are my personal views. 

We could be in-between one of the most messed up shipments. A call comes from home or school or your child and just like that there is a smile in our voice even though we are faking it because what else can be done? You are at the Dr with your spouse or child and work calls don’t stop so what do you do? Excuse me? Can I call you in 10 mins pls? or can you text me or whatsapp the issue and I will get back to you? Sorry, my child is sick. Can this wait until tomorrow? Oh, no? alright let me call you back in 30 mins? How many of us have faced this? If not a child, then spouse or partner or parent? 

We have had some trail blazers in women both in India and Globally who have made the world and people in it look up and think- hey she is a woman working in a man’s world. Women are good at operations, planning, hard core stuff but when given an opportunity they have to take it or rather I should say seize it. 

To work out of your comfort zone, to accept the labels put on you even when it is not true is tough, in uncomfortable situations is difficult but it is all doable. 

Why is so much pressure put on the Ladies in the Industry?

I think we put pressure on ourselves because we always have to be mindful of what we wear, how we walk, talk, behave etc… Maybe it’s time we stop doing that.

Mrs H.K.Joshi, the first woman MD of Shipping Corporation of India once told me Chaitaly, why should we be wearing our gender on our shoulders like a proud badge? This industry opens her arms for everyone irrespective of gender as long as you can perform so can we women stop wearing this gender badge and just do our jobs regardless of what it is? This was one of the most profound statements I had heard because I was so used to telling people off – that just because I wear bangles, I am not weak during work that it made me realise I was doing myself a disservice by forgetting others.

To the youngsters who are contemplating coming into the industry I tell you – Welcome but Don’t Judge. Until you have walked in your parent’s shoes or worked out that problem for yourself with satisfactory results, don’t tell us we don’t know how to run a company. This industry with all its subsidiaries, sub-industries is responsible for not only Global trade and Economy but also for keeping mankind alive. Take passion in what you are doing and genuinely believe that if it is not for us, there would be no humans. 

Learn and listen to those who are willing to teach you and educate you. You will never learn everything in this industry because that is the beauty and secret to this industry – nobody’s ever perfect or with 100% knowledge and that is why this industry is still young. A person with 50 years’ experience will still not know everything and that’s what keeps us as students all our lives here.

This industry is glamorous but hard core. Don’t let the glitz and jazz fool you. You will only stay here if it makes your blood zing and you understand what you are doing or else it is Tata Bye Bye.

The Logistics Industry is for the Brave Hearted and for those who still have a skip in their step because they know today is going to be a good day! Because today is the day there will be no mess-ups! Ha, it isn’t like that but then we are an Optimistic Bunch.

I love this industry, everything she represents, the work I do and more importantly I am proud of being a woman working in the logistics industry making a difference.