Compliance Manager, Gefco Forwarding Netherlands B.V.: Sarina Walidin

Sarina has been working in logistics and freight forwarding for more than a decade, and has spent almost her entire working life in the industry. She enjoys the high level of variety and challenges within pharma logistics, and has been instrumental in establishing the IATA CEIV certification for Gefco and key person in developing Generic Audits within Pharma Gateway Amsterdam (PGA).

What has been a career highlight for you, so far?

There have been many highlights, but gaining IATA CEIV certification was one of the most memorable. Inspired by the PGA team spirit with proactive leaders, we managed to obtain the IATA CEIV certificate and meet the requirements together with all the members of PGA.

What challenges have you (also as a woman) experienced, and how did you overcome them?

Logistics and freight forwarding is still a male dominated industry. Therefore, as a woman starting out in this industry, it was quite a challenge. Also the industry was quite different in comparison to how we experience it today. Freight forwarding in the old years simply involved sending shipments from A to B by booking an airplane and ensuring freight was carried to the airport. However, in the past five to eight years, a lot of regulations have been established by the EU, UN, local Dutch legislators, and aviation authorities. These regulations have increased the work load for operators, as they now need to perform many checks before sending out a shipment. Ensuring teams understand the importance of regulations and compliance is quite a challenge. The trend for the last years is that also a lot of female operators have joined the industry, which gives another dimension to the old fashioned tradition.

Have you had to overcome any obstacles to achieve your leadership position?

When I started my current role, compliance was not common in the logistics industry. Women already have to prove themselves in leadership roles and being a compliance person doubles that effort because the sector was not highly regulated in the past. Positive Mind-set and strong vision are my best friends when it comes to overcoming obstacles. Keeping in mind the higher goal, I have overcome the challenges which came on my path.

Pharma logistics is considered to be quite a male dominated sector. How are female leaders changing that perspective?

Female leaders are fighting for their equality and demonstrating that they are able to come up with new innovative ways of changing the industry. I believe PGA, with all its female members, has demonstrated this. And there is still a lot to come.

What makes a great (female) leader in pharma logistics?

The dynamic challenges of logistics and supply chain management require smart leaders to achieve good results. Excellent leaders must have the capability to trigger executives at a boardroom level, but also be able to speak to warehouse employees and engage them at the same time.

What advice would you give to someone/ Young women considering a career in pharma logistics?

Make a difference by joining the dynamic industry of logistics with many opportunities for females to learn and grow into leaders.

What are the qualities required for a female leader in pharma logistics?

Great female leaders seek responsibility and accountability. They inspire confidence and are reliable, which wins the hearts and minds of all their team members.

How are female leaders in pharma logistics different to their male counterparts?

Men are more likely to apply for a job they desire, even when they meet fewer of the qualifications, whereas women tend to apply only if they meet all the requirements. Female managers often miss out on development opportunities and are not recognised for their achievements because of unconscious biased opinions on the other side of the table. Decisions about opportunities are still influenced by the perception that a female leader with a family will not be willing to relocate or accept a global role, whereas this is not applied to male candidates.

Why is pharma logistics a good sector for women to rise into leadership roles?

Women can bring new perspectives about customer preferences and innovation to existing male views. They can work on building an environment to attract talent to the organisation. Female leaders make a significant contribution to the competitiveness and success of a company.

What makes Schiphol the right place for women in leadership?

Currently, around 10 per cent of airport leaders are female. This could be more of course. As a leading airport, Schiphol is setting an example by contributing to gender equality in leadership roles. This is not only seen in the logistics companies, but also in aviation industry, where more females have achieved to become pilots throughout the world, instead of being the old fashioned ‘air hostess’.

Why do you think Schiphol has so many female leaders?

In the Netherlands, gender equality is included in education from the very start. Women are educated in the same way as men, and are taught to be ambitious and chase their dreams. Schiphol has always been a multicultural, diverse working environment, and both men and women from different countries have been willing to relocate to Amsterdam for career development.