Friday 24 September 2021

Women and the Post


Great strides are being taken in the postal sector towards achieving gender equality within the workforce, but does more need to be done to accelerate its progress?

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 has a target of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030. To reach this goal, urgent action is needed to eliminate the many root causes of discrimination that still curtail women’s rights in private and public spheres.

Within business, there are still too few women in senior leadership positions, although change is occurring. According to Catalyst, a global non-profit, in 2020, the proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 29 per cent, the highest number ever recorded. “Leadership diversity and styles can make a difference,” says a UN Women spokesperson. “When more women are in decision-making positions, more inclusive decisions are made, different voices are being heard and different solutions created. Despite women’s increased engagement and representation in public life, however, equality is far off.”

UN Women reports that currently there are only 22 countries that are led by women as a Head of State or Government, and at the current rate of progress, it will take 130 years to reach gender parity at Heads of Government level, and in national legislative bodies will not be achieved until 2063.”

Women in the post

Although there are no specific figures on the breakdown of women and men who work within the global postal sector, it just takes one look at designated operators’ senior management teams to see that they are still dominated by men. However, the industry has come a long way over the years to gain better gender equality, and the situation differs from country to country.

In the US, for example, the postal service has a rich history of employing women. According to the United State Postal Service (USPS), women have transported mail in the US since at least the mid-1800s. During the 20th century, the number of women serving as mail carriers grew from less than 100 to more than 84,000. In 2018, USPS reported that it now employs about 289,500 women, which is more than 45 per cent of the postal workforce.

A big milestone for the USPS was on 1 February, 2015, when Megan J Brennan became the 74th Postmaster General of the United States – the first woman to lead the postal service.

Myrna Mendoz, who works for the USPS as the only female Tractor Trailer Operator in Santa Ana, California, undertakes a very labor-intensive job within the postal sector, and one that is often considered a “man’s job”.

Sometimes I do feel intimidated working in a field that’s dominated by men,” she says. “However, I love breaking the stereotypes and society’s image of women. Furthermore, the USPS is very supportive regardless of gender and helps every employee grow and advance their career if they want to.”

Like the US, the UK also has a strong history of women employed by the post. In fact, the postal service in the UK is considered to be a pioneer of women’s employment in the country, with large numbers of females employed by the General Post Office since 1870. Moya Greene become the first female CEO of Royal Mail in 2010 and went on to transform the business.

Although both Greene and Brennan are no longer in their positions, they both played a key role in two of the world’s leading and trusted organizations. Today other females have joined their ranks and taken up leading positions within the world’s posts, such as Asta Sungailienė, CEO of Lithuanian Post, Nomkhita Mona, CEO of the South African Post Office, Herna Verhagen, CEO of PostNL, and Kristi Unt, Board Member at Omniva.

Posts in other areas of the world are also working hard to improve gender equality. Singapore Post, for example, only opened the position of postal worker to females in 1974, but today the operator has a big focus on gender diversity and four out of the nine directors on its board are females. Emirates Post Group (EPG) meanwhile prides itself on being one of the leading employers of females in the UAE. In Q1 2021, the percentage of female employees was 35 per cent, and according to the post, this number is growing.

Women in the UPU

Louise Razafy, Human Resources Programme Manager at the UPU, says that the international bureau works hard to raise stakeholders’ awareness of gender issues. The UPU itself makes every effort to ensure gender equality in its staff and reports on gender issues to the Council of Administration every year. “Recently, the UPU discussed the need for the use of more gender-sensitive language and a proposal was made for the next Congress for the development of a gender equality policy for the period 2021-2024,” she explains.

As a result of a recent effort to bring more female staff on board, currently 46 per cent of core UPU employees are women, although Razafy believes that more could be done to ensure gender equality at all levels. “The number of female staff is still inversely proportional to their grade,” she says. “Indeed, women represent 68 per cent of staff belonging to the general service category against only 25 per cent for staff belonging to the professional and higher categories.”

Razafy notes, however, that more is being done by the UPU recruitment team to attract more female candidates to the UPU by “automatically adding encouragement for qualified women to apply and by expanding the reach of vacancy announcements through the use of social media.” The international bureau will also continue to advocate and raise colleagues’ awareness of the need to reach gender equality by 2030. 

“The UPU is a very friendly organization for women to work for,” Razafy continues. “First, there is no wage gap between men and women. Second, the organization offers a range of benefit entitlements that are very advantageous for women with families, such as family leave, flexible working hours, and corporate insurance for dependents. Finally, the UPU has the advantage of being located in Switzerland – one of the countries with the highest quality of life in the world.”

Workers have their say

Kristi Unt, Board Member at Omniva, believes that although her experience as a female in the postal sector has been a very positive one, more should be done to encourage gender equality in the industry. “The more we talk about women in our field, the better,” she says. “We also need strong role models in the field so that women feel more encouraged to join the logistics sector.”

Although Unt has only been with Omniva and in the postal sector in general for a little more than two years, she already feels at home in the industry. “Women are very well respected and valued at Omniva,” she says. “We have many women in leading positions and carrying big responsibilities in the logistics field. Omniva has created a very supportive and productive work environment regardless of one’s gender.”

In a bid to encourage more women to join the postal industry, she adds, “There is no reason to be afraid of the logistics sector. Many people still have stereotypes that logistics is a dry, conservative and male-dominated sector, but these stereotypes are just not true. Logistics is a very volatile and exciting field where multi-tasking abilities, which females are so good at, are well sought after.”

In Singapore, Seah Chwee Hong who works as a postal officer for SingPost, was one of the first female postal workers to join the organization in 1974. Like Unt, she has not faced any problems as a woman working in postal operations. “SingPost has provided me every opportunity to succeed, and now, the jobs done by men are all available for women as well,” she notes.

When Hong first joined the industry in 1974, she worked as a mail conveyancing driver and has since transferred to mail processing. “In the past, women were given lighter duties, for example they would deliver mail to addresses that were nearer to the delivery bases, while our male colleagues would lug mail meant for addresses that were further away on their bicycles for delivery,” she explains. “Now, postmen and postwomen share the load equally, with technology making our job easier. More and more women have also joined the postal service over the years.”
According to Hong, the postal sector offers women many opportunities to “make their own contributions to the industry,” she says. “I love driving, so the sense of freedom I got while on my rounds is something I treasure very much. In the course of my work, I was also able to witness first-hand the remarkable story of Singapore’s urban development,” she adds.

Shamma Hadid Alali, Customer Happiness Employee at EPG’s Dubai Central Customer Happiness Center in Karama, agrees that the postal industry offers great career opportunities for women. “EPG is a great company to work for, as there is always room for growth and career progression,” she explains. “The working environment prioritizes diversity, inclusion, and tolerance, which encourages me to be myself, to appreciate my colleagues, and be grateful for their friendship.”

In Lithuania, the postal operator has a similar number of women and men working in managerial positions and its Code of Ethics emphasizes the importance of equal pay and equal opportunities. “In general, the postal industry is quite a male dominant sector,” explains Asta Sungailienė, CEO of Lithuanian Post. “However, I haven’t faced any specific gender-related challenges or opportunities. I am a strong believer that any person, regardless of their gender, can excel in this industry and achieve great things.”

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