FedEx has expanded its Women’s Inclusive Network in Europe as part of its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) agenda.
The vision for the Women’s Inclusive Network is to attract, retain and grow women’s inclusiveness, according to network founder Louise Whitehouse, managing director, fleet maintenance Europe at FedEx.
In a recent interview with Fleet News, after Whitehouse was awarded the coveted Woman of the Year in the 2020 Amazon Everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards, she revealed how the women’s network had grown significantly in the previous year.
Since then, the Women’s Inclusive Network, originally set-up in the UK, has expanded to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Ireland, in addition to starting up in the Nordics and Southern Europe, with early conversations also taking place in Eastern and Central Europe.
Speaking on the recent expansion, Whitehouse said: “Due to the success of the network, we're replicating what we've done in the UK across Europe.
“Within the network, we’ve focused our efforts on organising virtual webinars, briefings, and events. These opportunities will help our employees understand what unconscious bias really is and how to address it.
“Although some of our employees may have never experienced unconscious bias personally, their colleagues may have. It’s a real education piece.”
FedEx has DEI regional councils and Whitehouse sits within the Europe one, sponsoring the gender dimension.
Whitehouse joined the council and founded the network as she felt that FedEx needed to have something for women in the UK that wasn’t purely focused on leadership positions; she thought there was “a great opportunity” that needed to be explored.
“I felt we were missing out on a lot of talent across the business if we only focused on leadership,” said Whitehouse.
“The vision was to attract, retain and grow - attract more women into our industry, retain them through a variety of support options, whether that's development or flexible working, and provide the tools and leadership they need to grow.”
FedEx’s Women's Inclusive Network initiative provides coaching and mentoring for employees across all levels and departments.
Whitehouse also highlighted the importance of the interview process for attracting diverse talent.
"When we interview people, we always need to question our panel and whether we are showing the diversity we have within the organisations - this is key to attracting talent and ensuring we represent the diversity within our business," said Whitehouse.
The role of men
Approximately 13% of the Women’s Inclusive Network members are male, something Whitehouse said they are seeing more uptake for.
Highlighting the importance men play in advocating diversity and inclusion, she explained: “We've engaged with different men across our business from different cultures and ages to tell us stories about women who have influenced them and why this is so important.
“If I think about the managing directors that have spoken at these sessions; for them it’s about their daughters and wanting to know that when they leave education and go to work, that they're going to work in a safe environment where they can have the same opportunities as everyone else, and that's powerful.”
FedEx also runs a mentoring programme giving women working at any level in the business the opportunity to be mentored by one of the UK managing directors or vice presidents for nine months.
Whitehouse said out of 18 mentors, 16 are men. She added: “We need to have that balance, that's the key. As an industry, we know there is a serious need to close this gender gap and we need to ensure we give everyone an equal opportunity.”
FedEx also runs an apprenticeship programme, and Whitehouse expressed hope that as fleets transition to electric vehicles (EVs), the technology aspect will appeal to more women and encourage a positive uptick in numbers.
Flexibility is needed to encourage diversity
Whitehouse said that flexibility within organisations is a key element to encouraging more women into the transport and logistics sector.
“Simply put, we need to be more flexible. We need to ensure we support everyone in their career path, and this involves acknowledging that women will often have caregiving responsibilities on top of a full time job," she said.
“Having a good return to work policy will help in attracting women to the industry. If you decide to have a career break, or you take maternity leave, the business should provide supportive policies to allow this and the return to work process.”
Everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards 2021
Whitehouse is on the judging panel for this year’s Everywoman and Transport and Logistics Awards, supported by Fleet News as the official media partner.
Everywoman is committed to celebrating the UK’s brightest female talent, using the awards as a platform to applaud their success.
Commenting on the awards, Whitehouse said: “It’s really great for us to be able to recognise women in the industry doing an amazing job from a platform outside of their organisation.
“The awards are a chance for industry leaders in the sector to recognise the great work both nominees and winners do and the contribution they make, whether that's being exceptional within the role you are in or making your workplace or community more diverse and inclusive.”
FedEx Express sponsor the Warehousing Award at the 2021 Amazon Everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards, which is awarded to two women who are excelling in their role within a warehousing environment.
The finalists for the awards have been announced – for more information and to book tickets to the ceremony on July 8, 2021, visit the Amazon Everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards website.