As a featured editorial on Freight Waves, Ascent’s Beth Westjohn, Chief Financial Officer, discusses how women can flourish combining freight and finance:
Did you know that only 2% of the millions of people globally employed in the logistics industry are female? This shocking percentage indicates that there must be tell-tale reasons why more women have not joined the ranks of this dynamic industry. One can assume that the lack of females within this male-dominated industry is intimidating, making it challenging for many women to find their place. It can also extend from the lack of awareness around what specific opportunities are available to women in logistics overall, according to Beth Westjohn, chief financial officer at Ascent.
Ascent is a third-party logistics company that solves supply chain challenges for its customers worldwide by managing ground expedites and air charters. Ascent also specializes in international forwarding, customs brokerage, domestic brokerage and managed freight offerings.
Being a chief financial officer in a fast-growing company in today’s supply chain market is an incredible challenge, which Westjohn has quickly mastered. Westjohn is relatively new to the freight industry herself but has worked in finance for more than 30 years. Much like her previous roles, she has immediately immersed herself in the importance of quickly learning what’s most important to Ascent’s customers.
“You have to talk about goals, get the numbers right, and make sure you have the right information to report to business leaders, but liquidity and balancing in the brokerage space are important and can be tricky, especially in today’s market,” Westjohn said.
When asked about why the logistics industry, Westjohn explained, “One of the cool things about finance is that your fields can translate from one industry to the next,” she said. “The fast-paced, service-based logistics world is no exception and I get to learn something new every day.”
Westjohn acknowledged some women might be hesitant to embark on careers in either finance or freight. “I think there are a lot of barriers that keep ladies out of finance and freight. It usually starts with ‘can’t.’ I encourage others to do what they want to do. Don’t listen to the ‘can’t.’” Westjohn said. “Figure out what you are good at and then go do it. Don’t let the concept of ‘it’s only men who do that’ or ‘finance is too hard’ keep you from doing what you want.”
It’s vital that women build connections, she continued. She encouraged women to learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk without losing themselves, staying true to being a woman, especially in an industry like finance or logistics.
“In freight finance, there’s a lot of numbers to put in boxes, but this industry specifically is about connection. In my experience, you want to understand the people you are working with and working for,” Westjohn said. “It’s more than just being good at math – connections, that’s what it’s about.”