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DHL Express Regional Director Fatima Sullivan believes in change

DHL Express Regional Director Fatima Sullivan believes in change

 January 25, 2023

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DHL's culture, values, and the way colleagues work together as a team ensures that everyone feels valued and rewarded for the contribution they bring.

Meet DHL's Fatima Sullivan, Regional Director for Southern and Eastern Africa for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, who has worked with DHL for 20 years.

Here, Fatima provides an insight into her individual take on what life is like for her as a woman working in logistics.

Women working in logistics

"I'm a Portuguese South African born to two really hard-working inspirational immigrant parents from the island of Madeira, and I'm a woman in logistics," says Fatima.

"After 12 years of being in a female dominated industry I arrived at DHL, and I think quite naive and unprepared for the gender bias that existed 20 years ago in a male-dominated environment. So it was quite something to get used to."

Playing an important role in diversity

Very often Fatima was the only woman in the boardroom, the only woman at the meeting, and the only woman traveling.

"As woman leaders, if you are strong, confident, outspoken, in terms of your leadership style you very quickly get labeled, and very often that label is she's competent but not very likable because you know she's quite aggressive, and she's really pushy. The flip side, of course, if you go for a slightly softer approach in your management style then you very quickly get labeled 'wow what a lovely lady, but I'm not really sure if she's competent'," explains Fatima.

"I kept getting told over and over that I was going to hit a ceiling because I wasn't prepared to immigrate or to go live in another country and my argument was I can travel as much as you want me to but for me to be successful I need to be where I have backup, and I've been able to play a role in my view in changing that or being a part of the change that has happened, because the logistics industry and the company that I joined like diversity and equity wise is completely different now to what it was 20 years ago."

DHL has a culture of appreciating its people

Fatima explains that being a part of the change that has happened has a lot to do with DHL's culture, and the fact that DHL has a culture of appreciating its people, understanding cultural diversity, religious diversity or other kinds of diversity.

"So it was a very natural and a quick evolution. It was more about positioning the industry in a way that made it attractive to women," comments Fatima.

"Logistics is an amazing industry, and we've never seen that more powerfully than we have now during the pandemic with logistics being the key thing keeping the world together. I believe that it is an industry that's just going to continue to grow and flourish and as a woman business leader there's nothing better than picking that kind of industry,"

Believing that change can happen

Fatima believes that logistics is definitely the place to be, and it's the place for the future.

"No matter what you think you can or can't do, you're probably right, and that is if you think you can change, and you have the genuine desire and the belief in why you need to make the change, you can go from being an introvert, to standing on a stage and singing, to an audience of people knowing that you have a terrible voice, but understanding the value and the impact that your actions have on motivating your people, on building a relationship with your people," Fatima explains.

Importance of courage

For Fatima, a really valuable lesson is that people need to really believe in what they're doing, and have the courage to change because the world changes all the time.

"In order for you to continue to be successful, in order for you to continue to grow, you have to change as well," concludes Fatima.

Forge a successful career in logistics with DHL

DHL believes in equal chances, liberty and freedom of choice, and therefore wishes to employ humans from all ethnicities, backgrounds, beliefs, and genders.

Discover the positive impact that can be made with DHL.

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