Dionne Redpath and Maria Torrent-March discuss why and how Europa Logistics is leading the way for diversity and equality in a sector historically dominated by men
Less than a quarter of the 1.5 million people working in the logistics industry in the UK are women, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES)1 – but at Europa Worldwide Group, almost 40 per cent of the workforce is female, including two of its eight directors. Having worked in logistics since the age of 18, Europa’s Branch Network and Sales Director Dionne Redpath is a passionate advocate that women can have a successful career in management and bring up a family at the same time, but acknowledges that her industry is not known for promoting, encouraging and welcoming women in to the board room.
Dionne, who has worked with MD of Europa Andrew Baxter for around 20 years, previosuly at RH Freight and now at Europa, said: “My professional experience in the logistics sector has been a wholly positive one, but I’m aware that a lot of work needs to be done to tackle the gender stereotypes associated with our sector. It is shocking that globally less than two per cent of employees in logistics are female2. That figure needs to change.
“Europa certainly feels very different to many other logistics businesses. More than a third of our staff are female, which shows how we actively promote the view that anyone who works hard, demonstrates a passion for our business and is committed to our ambitious targets can succeed and develop at Europa, regardless of gender.
“I love my job, the attitude of the business and the mix of personalities and backgrounds that Andrew has combined to build his board of directors. It is inspiring to be part of a team which is so diverse and energetic and I believe that our continued success – for example, we are now running at 25-35 per cent consignment growth across the business – is down to the well-balanced make-up of our team.”
Dionne began her career in the steel industry in Sheffield as a transport buyer, progressing from a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) which provided further education opportunities alongside working, much like a modern day apprenticeship. By the age of 21, she was in charge of an £8m budget and had expanded her skills signficantly, having been given further education opportunities including professional qualifications associated with export and import business activities.
“I went straight into work at 18 and worked my socks off, so that by my early 20s I was well-qualified and had solid work experience. That’s when I was first approached by Andrew Baxter, who was looking for a capable and passionate Account Manager for RH Freight – part of the Baxter family owned international freight and logistics provider RH Group – before it was sold to Kuehne+Nagel in 2013. This was a big step for me at the time, because I’d only done buying roles to date and Andrew was offering me a selling role. But I took the opportunity and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!” said Dionne.
Dionne worked for RH Freight in its Sheffield branch, visiting customers and winning new business around the South Yorkshire region for a year until she was promoted to Branch Manager at just 24-years-old. She held this role for three years until she moved on to a new role in Liverpool where she jointly managed the business’s logistics facility.
She added: “The move to managing the Liverpool warehouse was a huge challenge for me as I’d not been exposed to the logistics arm of the business before. I worked some very long hours but learnt tonnes, so despite the gruelling commute and the steep learning curve, it was another key milestone in my career. I believe you need to do things that scare you so that you can develop, irrespective of gender or age – it is the only way to fulfill your potential.”
After she had her first child, Dionne returned to work as General Manager for International Operations in Nottingham which she says was her toughest challenge for both professional and personal reasons, but after five years in that role was given a new opportunity to take control of the domestic network operation of RH Freight which she did for six years. She remained with many of the team she’d worked with for well over a decade when Andrew sold RH Freight and subsequently acquired Europa. She was appointed as Branch Network and Sales Director for Europa Road following Andrew’s restructuring of the business.
Dionne added: “I believe the success in my career to date is down to working for a company which promotes progression and development from within and doesn’t limit opportunities by making you stick only to the things that you know, even if that means making tough sacrifices along the way or stepping into the unknown.”
Logistics Director of Europa Warehouse Maria Torrent- March, who is originally from Barcelona, has also spent her whole career working in the industry, and last year at the age of 36 was promoted to the role of Director. Maria, who has worked for the business for more than 11 years, joined as an export clerk after completing a degree in Business Studies at the University of Valencia in Spain, with a year abroad on the Erasmus programme at the University of Hertfordshire.
She said: “Europa is certainly leading the way for the logistics sector in giving opportunities to employees who show promise – gender doesn’t come into it and never has. What I love about the business is that every time I want a challenge, I’ve been given it, hence why I have stayed here for more than a decade.
“After a year of working as an export clerk I wanted to expand my skill set, so the business put me on a customised management programme which was tailored just to me. I rotated around the different divisions of the business, including imports, transport, sales, air, sea, logistics and accounts, learning the ropes and gaining experience at every turn. It was a turning point in my career as it gave me the opportunity to discover what I enjoyed the most and to map out a path into management.
“Europa also supported me through further qualifications, such as a post graduate diploma in Change Management, allowing me the flexibility to adapt my hours to complete my studies and contributing towards the fees.
“Logistics appealed to me the most because it is such a diverse business area – it is about providing a specific solution for the customer for their whole supply chain, not just one service element. I quickly gained the experience in the logistics team to become a Business Development Manager and I loved being able to apply all the knowledge learnt from the management programme.”
Maria worked in this role for a year before being promoted to Logistics Administration Manager at Europa’s Northampton warehouse facility, which provides a multitude of warehousing and logistics services for market-leading trade sector brands and blue chip customers. In this position she was in responsible for £5m worth of contracts and was in charge of HMRC bond and excise regulatory compliance, MHRA and Home Office processes and customer service, again developing her skill set and broadening her horizons.
“When Andrew bought the business I was keen to see what vision he had for the future and thrilled when I heard his ambitious plans. He encourged me to leave operations and to gain further commercial experience.
“I took the Head of Sales role for the logistics division and after some time off when I had my first child I returned to work and a year later was offered a promotion to Logistics Director. I’m a very vocal advocate of promoting logistics as a rewarding, challenging and exciting career path for women and men of diverse backgrounds and I’m proud to work for a business which makes that a priority too!” Maria added.
Established in 1966 Europa Worldwide Group is a growing privately owned operator offering specialist air, ocean and logistics services, plus an unrivalled land service to the whole of Europe. The company has a strong presence in 100 countries across six continents and is wholly committed to creating a balanced and happy workforce. In an industry known for being male-dominated, more than a third of the team at Europa is made up of women – a breakdown of 220 women and 387 men, which is a split of 36.25 per cent to 63.75 per cent.