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DHLs Sabine Mueller calls for more women leading logistics

DHL's Sabine Mueller calls for more women leading logistics

 April 18, 2023

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Image: Nina Tiefenbach

"Leading women in logistics continue to be a minority. That has to change. But change needs courage. Especially in a working environment that experiences disruptive digital transformation, stepping out of old comfort zones is of paramount importance," says DHL Consulting CEO Sabine Mueller in an essay about why we need more leading women in logistics, featured in the DHL Delivered Magazine.

DHL Consulting is an independent strategic supply chain and management consultancy of Deutsche Post DHL Group. Its CEO, Sabine, is passionate about promoting gender diversity at executive level and empowering women in leadership.

Described as "exciting and vibrant", Sabine has been calling the logistics industry her home for two decades. Big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, and disruptive software such as blockchain, push the industry to constantly evolve and reinvent itself. In order to continue excelling in their jobs, Sabine believes leaders in logistics need to not only adapt but to lead the way.

"Of course “leading the way” is more easily said than done, especially when that means truly embracing the paradigm shift triggered by digitalization. One of my most valuable lessons was being able to leave my comfort zone," says Sabine.

Too much comfort zone – too few female leaders

Sabine Mueller DHL

The willingness to question old, comfortable behaviors has helped Sabine greatly throughout her career. Sabine made it a priority not only to think but also to act outside of her comfort zone.

"I strongly believe this is one of the main reasons why I am who I am today: a leading woman," explains Sabine.

Looking back at her professional progression, Sabine held various positions in strategy, corporate organization and consulting. Over time, Sabine has witnessed an increase in gender diversity, but to this day women in leadership continue to be underrepresented.

"My personal experience evolving in this type of working environment has triggered my engagement to actively promote a more gender-balanced workforce and inspire women to take charge of their career advancement with confidence. This is no easy ride," says Sabine.

Gender balance has not been achieved – yet

For Sabine, the numbers speak for themselves. At Deutsche Post DHL Group, women make up around 35 per cent of the total workforce but are confined to only 15 percent of the board of directors. The proportion of women sitting on other supervisory boards has moved from 30 percent to 40 per cent in the past five years – what Sabine sees as "an encouraging development".

"However, this picture shows that gender disparity at higher executive levels is still a reality. And the logistics and supply chain industry is no exception here. The air gets equally thinner for leading women across a large number of middle-sized and large corporations in Germany," comments Sabine.

"Men and women working together simply make better decisions. This is the reason why I encourage logistics leaders to put women’s career advancement on their agenda and make a commitment to promoting diversity throughout their organizations. I strongly believe that more diversity and gender balance at executive level is a winning recipe for improved business performance, innovation and competitiveness. The same applies to gender parity in the boardroom. Diversity in backgrounds, gender, cultures, perspectives and experiences is a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable business success," adds Sabine.

How to achieve greater gender diversity

While the value of driving a gender-diversity agenda is unquestionable, Sabine says that getting it right requires focus.

"It takes courage, a vision, and a conducive culture that empowers women throughout the organization to voice their needs, take risks, and demonstrate their own capabilities in getting the – any – job done. Business leaders need to take ownership for managing and accompanying this necessary change process. Today, our sustained efforts on achieving greater diversity at DHL Consulting translate into a tangible improvement in customer and employee satisfaction. But a strong long-term strategy needs to be in place to maintain this positive trend," explains Sabine.

"The most obvious step in this transformational journey is to mirror gender equity goals in recruiting and career advancement processes. The company’s recruitment approach remains a particularly crucial building block to be calibrated toward diversity targets. Attracting, retaining and developing a mixed talent pool will help establish the balance needed to capture the related business value," adds Sabine. 

Sabine also suggests that networking – nurturing business relationships and exchanging information with peers – has become an "instrumental way" for women to tap into their potential as leadership personas. Sabine particularly mentions young female professionals, who need to master networking skills and invest in meaningful professional connections.

Sabine believes social media and other communication channels today provide new opportunities for women who might have found it difficult, or perhaps didn’t have the chance, to network proficiently in the past.

"Part of my commitment to improving gender diversity in the logistics industry is to provide dynamic and ongoing networking platforms that enable women to interact. DHL Consulting’s annual women’s recruitment event has become a perfect forum for promoting proactive integration and further development in our industry," explains Sabine.

Next step: Owning the change process

Digitalization itself seems to act as a career enabler for women in leadership. Sabine cites studies that show a large percentage of women believe companies that have gone through digital transformation are more likely to support their career development.

"Becoming a female leader in logistics requires dedication, courage and confidence in one’s own capabilities. I want to inspire women in this industry to step out of their comfort zones, be vocal about their professional needs and leverage – digital – networking to accelerate their careers. Obviously, it takes more than dedicated women to change the system. Agile organizations need to acknowledge women’s positive impact in leadership positions and make progression opportunities for them more visible and accessible. Most importantly, this change has to be embedded in the long-term company culture and strategy," says Sabine.

"It requires true leadership skills to turn diversity into an asset for our business. If tackled seriously, gender parity will without a doubt unlock a company’s full potential for creativity, innovation and competitiveness. I look forward to engaging with you on the topic of women in leadership. Share your professional experiences and your perspective on women in the logistics sector," adds Sabine.

Fabulous illustration of Sabine Meuller by Nina Tiefenbach

Nina Tiefenbach DHL artist

The essay by Sabine Mueller was illustrated by a fabulous illustration by Berlin-based creative Nina Tiefenbach [pictured above].

DHL commissioned artist Nina Tiefenbach to create ongoing employee portraits for DHL Delivered Magazine in her watercolor style. Nina has a special penchant for beautiful female faces, and has drawn wonderful portraits for a variety of clients.

After graduating from the renowned design faculty at University Pforzheim, Nina traveled to South America, France and Spain. The globetrotter finally settled in Berlin and started to work as a graphic designer for various advertising agencies. In 2002, Nina decided to focus on illustration and has been working as a freelance illustrator ever since. Nina's immediate surroundings are her biggest source of inspiration for the artist - people, food, plants or woolen threads lying around. "You just have to keep your eyes open, and pictures will form in my head which I then capture in my sketchbook," says Nina. A very colorful style with delicate linework makes Nina's artwork special. Nina loves using watercolor, pencil or fineliner and creates digital illustrations on her computer. “I like to experiment with different techniques like paper folding and cutting or animation," says Nina. The illustrator takes watercolor drips and color segments that she cuts out in Adobe Illustrator or with scissors and combines them to create new shapes that turn into images.

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