HE for SHE- Diversity in the Logistics and Transport Industry

Interview: Jlue WOLO

Born in Monrovia, Liberia, Jlue WOLO, 39, is married and has a lovely girl. He has been working for A.P. Moller - Maersk for 11 years.


After holding the positions of Sales Manager in Liberia for 5 years and Project Manager, Norfolkline BV , Jlue has been occupying the position of Head of Product Management of Central West Africa (Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Bénin, Nigeria, Niger) since October 2020.


He hold a BSc degree in Electronics Engineering and completed some business courses in Stellenbosch University, South Africa and IMD Business School, Switzerland.


In this exclusive interview, this accomplished leader discusses his experiences, his sources

of inspiration and his vision on the needed presence of women in the logistics world.


1- How did you end up working in the logistics and transportation industry?

While in university, I was studying to become a computer engineer. On one of the career day session, Maersk made a presentation about maritime shipping which caught my attention. I then applied to the Maersk traineeship program and got enrolled. That's how I joined the logistics industry and I have loved it since - never a dull moment. I have worked with Maersk throughout my career spanning across four countries in multiple functions.


“ Logistics is a people (network) business and has afforded me the opportunity to build relationships and extend my network.”

2- Have you encountered any specific challenges during your career in this industry?

In the context of career advancement, No. I'm blessed to have started and continued my career for a company that value employees, customers and reward results. Also, my personal values match quite well with the values of Maersk, so it's been a good run so far.


On day to day, there are always challenges in the logistics industry, always an opportunity to do something new and innovate. One of the biggest challenges in the industry is the interconnectivity of the logistics ecosystem.


The fragmentation of the supply chain - vessel operators, terminal operators, customs, land transport operators, land storage operators - creates a lot of complexities for customers / consumers. Integrating it holds a huge untapped potential and that's why the Maersk Integrator vision resounds very much with me - an opportunity to be at the forefront of a revolution.


3- A recent survey by Deloitte Africa (2019) revealed that out of 500 companies in Africa, 56% had a female representation of less than 25% in the management teams, what does this invoke for you?

I think that in many industries, women are "forced" to choose between work and family, when they become mothers. According to a study by McKinsey, mothers are three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for household responsibilities. This might partly explain why many women joining the workforce often don't get into the management team as they become mothers. Though, there have been progress in the representation of women in top management from 23% in 2015 to 28% in 2020 (McKinsey), howbeit slow.


“ I think more needs to be done legislatively to encourage mothers to continue to build their careers “

To accelerate the representation of women, I think more needs to be done legislatively to encourage mothers to continue to build their careers e.g. extension of maternity leave. The International Labour Organization (ILO) recommends a minimum of 14weeks maternity. While some countries, e.g. in the Scandinavia, provide extensive paid maternity leave up to one year, some don't even meet the minimum recommendation from ILO. Corporations should also consider changing the work environment to cater to working mothers like having a nursery or grant working mothers flexibility to choose where to work from. COVID-19 has shown that "flex-work" is indeed possible.


4- In your opinion, what could be the reasons for the low representation of women in this industry qualified as a male domain - How could parity be established?

 A teacher asked her class of less that eight year old to draw a ship's captain. Less than 20% of the class drew a female captain. When I recruit for logistics job, the representation of female applicants is usually in the low 20%. So, I think it is partly job stereotyping. This can improved through education, awareness and promotion. I think also that many logistics corporations should include women representation (from entry level to senior management) in their corporate strategy to drive the change.


5- In your opinion, what are the stakes of diversity and equality in the transport and logistics industry on the African continent?

In any industry and on any continent, the subject of diversity is critical to drive divergence of thoughts, which in turn increases innovation. I have led teams and been part of teams that were gender diversed and from my experience, there was better collaboration, creativity and team bonding. This positive team engagement leads to good customer experience, which translates in above-average teams' results. So, to transform the logistics industry in Africa and keep up with the fast pace change of consumer needs and demand, diversity (especially gender diversity) is crucial.


6- What do you think about female leadership, does it exist?

Of course it does exist. There are many studies that show women to excel in leadership from a good balance of IQ and EQ than their male counterparts. In my career, I have had one female boss Eva Maria Kops, who happens to be one of my favorites. I used to have a hard separation between the "professional Jlue" and the "personal Jlue". It does take quite some administration to maintain these two identities. Having Eva as a leader inspired me to just be me - Jlue.


7- On a professional level, is there someone who inspires you, who mentors you?

I am blessed to have had very good direct managers in my career, Christian Pedersen, Morten Juul , Eva Maria Kops, Glenn MacArtney, and currently Thomas Theeuwes . I have drawn a lot of inspiration from them, while they have helped shape my professional life. I have multiple mentors depending on my goals but will mention Mads Skov-Hansen, who has a strong record in leadership and engaging large organization behind a common vision.


8- Is there a particular person you admire for their leadership? Why or why not?

My mother, Yvonne Wolo. She was a single mom (after the death of my father). To balance her work and household responsibilities, we stayed with our grandparents, while she worked.


“ She is indeed a "Superwoman" “

She only recently retired at 62 and has taught me the value of work, going the extra mile, and living modestly. She led by example and held us accountable for our actions. She taught me to have high level respect for people, especially women from her example and how I treated my sister. She is indeed a "Superwoman".


9- How do you manage to balance your professional and personal life?

The balance between professional and personal life is all about choice. Depending on where I am in my career, I make the deliberate choice of how much time to spend on professional and personal life. E.g. when I get into a new job or transition into a new role, the "balance" tilts more towards professional life than personal. It's about making those deliberate choices depending on where I am in life. Though, I am generally perceived to be a workaholic.


10- Your final word, if you had 3 pieces of advice to give to women who would like to reach decision making positions in this industry, what would they be?

  • Find your place: What do you want to be known for? What are you passionate about? What are your competences? These are some of the questions you will need to answer to find your place. Work is much more fun and rewarding when you do the things you love. There is a saying, you don't put a square peg in round hole, reason it is crucial as a starting point to find your place.
  • Exploit your place: Let your results speak for you. Become valuable through constant learning. Learn the politics of your company and industry and participate. Build relationships with people (through mentorship or sponsorship) that can take you to the next level.
  • Give from your place: Share what you know with others. Help others grow. You reap what you sow. So, if you want to go up, help others come up.