A sellout crowd of 120 guests, of which 95 per cent were women, was treated to two inspirational speeches on International Women’s Day (March 8) at the Traffic Club of Montreal’s (TCM) inaugural Women in Logistics luncheon at L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel.

TCM is a non-profit organization bringing transportation and logistics professionals together since 1926. Its mission is to unite transportation, logistics and industry partners in professional networking venues.

Suzanne Baril, Notary and Legal Counsel, got the ball rolling by encouraging women to do what they want in life, using herself as an example by pointing out that she returned to university at the age of 42 and has been an independent notary for the last four years. She also offered some sound advice on the importance of having an up-to-date legal will, particularly for women in a cohabitation relationship.

In her speech entitled, “Women in Logistics: Taking Your Place at the Table,” Fiona Murray, Assistant Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, Canadian National Railway, discussed the importance of having women in senior management roles. “Women have not traditionally been included at that level, and diversity is very beneficial for companies,” she said.

She cited a study by Catalyst, a North American research firm focused on women and business that found that companies with three or more women on their boards outperformed the competition on all measures by at least 40 per cent.

However, another Catalyst study called “Women in Transportation & Warehousing” revealed that while women make up 23 per cent of the industry in the U.S. and Canada, they constitute 16 per cent of senior management, 14 per cent of company boards, and zero per cent of CEOs.

Despite this predicament, Murray said women are heading major organizations, pointing to Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, Carol Greer-Bedard, Manager, Land Transportation at Rio Tinto Alcan and Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority.

Following the luncheon, Murray was overwhelmed by the feedback she received. “I got lots of emails, saying I’d given them the push they needed; one woman said she was going back to school to get her logistics degree.”

“With business people and leaders like Fiona and Suzanne supporting new events such as this one, TCM is well-positioned for growth,” said Gianni Piovesan, outgoing President of TCM. “We’re on a roll.”

Through the commitment of over 800 members, volunteers, and Board of Directors, TCM will continue to set the industry standard through leading events and activities, delivering value and a heightened awareness of the logistics industry, according to Piovesan.

And for the first time in its history, TCM will have four female Board members, including 1st Vice-President Lark Ford, of “K” Line Canada Inc., who will become TCM President in April, 2nd Vice-President and Honorary Treasurer Rose DiSalvo, of DB Schenker of Canada, and Directors Christine Vucko, of CN, and Martine Baril of M-O Freightworks.

In addition to its sold-out inaugural Women in Logistics luncheon, TCM is pursuing other initiatives.

TCM has enlisted WestJet as a fundraising partner for all its events and have a formal agreement with the Children’s Wish Foundation as the recipient of 2012 fundraising efforts ($17,000 was raised last year, and the goal is $25,000 this year).

The club also has a pilot project with transportation students at Champlain College and has created scholarship programs with the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association and the Canadian Institute of Traffic and Transportation, being rolled out this summer.