Paula Bellamy

Five minutes with…

Paula Bellamy

Managing Director

OL UK

Can you share a bit about your background and what initially drew you to a career in the logistics industry?

I left school at 16 with minimal qualifications, but I lived close to the port of Felixstowe. As the logistics industry was the largest employer at that time, my interviews were all within logistics, and needless to say, I obtained an offer, which started my journey into the industry.

My father had previously worked in HM Customs and Excise, so after I started as a junior in a transport office, I also tried shift work for HM Customs. Then, I settled with a freight forwarder, mainly due to the choice of roles within one office, such as imports, exports, accounts, etc., and tried them all on my journey to see what I liked.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a woman in the logistics industry?

At the start of my career, the challenges were very sexist; women were not expected to succeed or even have ambition, so I would say my ambition even came as a surprise to me. I quietly climbed the career ladder but realised that I needed to change companies for any big promotion to be achieved. If I had stayed in one company, it would have been easy to be forgotten and not recognised, so I would say getting a promotion was undoubtedly one of my most significant challenges.

Self-belief was another big challenge because colleagues would not expect you to achieve great things, so of course, your own expectations are not there either. For years, I told the story that I was ‘lucky’ with my career and that I wasn’t chosen due to my strengths. I was in the right place at the right time. It wasn’t until I had business coaching that I realised what I had achieved alone and accepted that perhaps I was good at my job.

What inspired you to start the ‘Females in Freight’ initiative, and what are its main goals and activities?

After 10 years in the Middle East, I was used to networking and supporting others as an Expat, so when I came back to the UK, it surprised me that networking wasn’t as popular here. Certainly, there appeared to be a huge lack of support within the freight industry, especially around women.

Deone Blignaut and I started talking and realised together that we could begin to do something to make a difference, especially in Felixstowe. We wanted to create a support group to help empower women to find their voice in a very male-dominated industry. We also had no desire to exclude men; we just wanted to hear what the women had to say and hear their stories, and perhaps we could inspire and change the thoughts of women about their own careers.

How have’ Females in Freight’ impacted the community and industry so far, and can you share a success story that stands out to you?

We have hosted four functions so far and already have support from both the Felixstowe and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Exporters, and now also Suffolk Minds, which is great as our voices are reaching a wider audience who have the power to implement change.

Our agenda always centres around discussing current industry topics or general matters that everyone at all levels can relate to, so we try to stay very current and adaptable to our audience.

What advice would you give to other women looking to enter the logistics industry, and what do you see as the future for women in this field?

For other ladies thinking of entering the logistics industry, I would like to share how diverse the sector itself really is; there are many parts to logistics which some people may not realise and indeed, opportunities exist to get promotion, to travel locally and globally, to meet customers directly, to attend exciting functions, to see how container vessels operate, to get inside warehouses and understand the cargo entirely and see a container being loaded.. the list goes on and on.

The Logistics industry is evolving. The best team is always a good mixture of males and females, and many companies have already realised this, especially our company, Ocean Wide Logistics Group. We have a very nice blend of males and females and also different cultures and nationalities. To create a good office, you need a team that challenges each other in a positive way but is also ready to support each other when the going gets tough.

The future for women in logistics is very positive, and the positions are there to be taken, so just hold your head high and believe in yourselves, ladies. You ‘can’ do it!

OL UK