Grit & Grace

A study conducted by the University of Arkansas and the University of Akron suggests that the more women in charge of logistics the better. Why? In testing, they performed more efficiently than their counterparts.

To Valley Companies, this is old news. Many of Valley’s key players are women—some of whom have been with the company for as much as 50 years.

“It’s no secret that the logistics industry is predominately run by men,” says Ashley Reed, LTL operations manager. “But I feel that Valley is actively creating a team where all voices are heard at the big tables.”

Including in the company’s executive suites. In February, Jennifer Jenkins was promoted to vice president of finance. She now oversees not only pricing and financial analysis, but all of the company’s finances.

With broad ranging skills and diverse educational degrees, Valley’s women have made names for themselves as agile fixers, leaders and problem solvers. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without these important women,” says Todd Gilbert, the company’s CEO and visionary.

After studying to be a radiologic technologist and working in the food industry, Rhonda Piatchek, logistics specialist, came to the field “simply by falling into an opening at a local van line,” she says. But then, “I loved it, and it quickly became my career,” she adds.

That was 33 years ago.

Now, “I take pride in being that go-to person and respected in the field to a degree that peers and customers reach out to me for solutions,” she says.

And she’s one of many.

Ashley Briles, the company’s executive assistant, brings critical language skills to the table, having a degree in Spanish and a minor in international business. Right after college, Briles worked in the language translation industry for five years, as well as in the tax and accounting industries in project management and administration. In addition to keeping Valley’s executive team humming, “Building the culture and helping to make Valley a fun place to work is something I take very personally,” Briles says.

Of course, it isn’t just at Valley that women are making their mark on the industry. According to the latest Women in Supply Chain Survey by Gartner, they now make up 41% of the industry’s workforce. That’s a far cry from 50 years ago, says Peg Karras, director of quality improvement.

Even these days, “I think the biggest challenge for women in the logistics business is understanding that the majority of the population is men,” Karras says. “But that has never deterred me in my passion for being a strong personality in this business.”

And it shouldn’t deter others either, she thinks—including as leaders.

As the LTL operations manager, Reed keeps her department headed in the right direction. But her view of leadership is unique. “I may be the leader of the team, but I like to think I work for them,” she says. “I like to share the knowledge I’ve learned while helping the team to be successful.”

It takes grit, says Jennifer Klecan, the company’s final mile operations manager, who started in logistics when she was just 20 years old. In operations, it takes “a unique blend of perseverance and determination,” Klecan says, as she manages the final stage of the delivery process.

Meanwhile, if Jennifer Jenkins could go back and give advice to her 20-year-old self—or any other woman entering the industry—it would be, “Never settle,” she says.

It simply isn’t necessary.

Just ask the many women of Valley. This is just a small sampling of those who keep the company—and its customers—moving.