Editor’s note: Hope White, founder and CEO at H.D. White Logistics, considers “every month Black History Month” but says it’s nice to set aside one month each year to celebrate people of color. As part of FreightWaves’ coverage of Black History Month, White shared her struggles to get promoted after entering the logistics world and discussed the challenges she still faces as a minority business owner.
Hope White started her career in logistics in 2014 as a general office associate for inbound traffic at a national retailer. She piloted the company’s first direct fulfillment center, helping it enter the e-commerce space.
In a year, White’s ability to put out logistical fires earned her a promotion to transportation coordinator. She learned about everything from inbound and outbound traffic to picking, packing and inventory.
“That’s where I really honed in on my skill set of being able to wear multiple hats,” White said.
While in her role of coordinator, White applied for the role of transportation supervisor nine times.
She was denied the promotion nine times.
Despite working extra hours and days, White said she was told by management that “it’s not who works harder that gets the promotion, it’s who delivers the results.”
Yet, she said, she was delivering the results. It didn’t matter.
“No matter what I said or did or how hard I worked, it was never good enough.”
Looking at her counterparts, she noticed it was often younger, white men being promoted because they “fit the look.” Blacks or African Americans made up about 21% of people employed in the transportation sector in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
White decided to let her work speak for itself and make the promotion come to her. She buckled down and learned the ins and outs of every department, making herself the go-to person for solving problems. Eventually, she was promoted to transportation supervisor.
Then, two weeks out from peak season and 30 days into her training, the transportation manager — who oversaw her work — was terminated.
With less than two weeks of real training, White went on to lead what her colleagues called “one of the most successful peak seasons to date.”
White then filled in the transportation manager’s role for four months, doing everything required for someone in that role. When she interviewed for the position, however, she said she was told that she didn’t have the required experience or education.
After working six- and seven-day weeks, implementing new strategies, ensuring on-time service and lending a hand to co-workers across all departments, White felt defeated. The company hired a white man whose resume indicated he was experienced, but he was “not competent at all,” she said.
A new beginning
She eventually walked away to pursue a career as a freight broker. She came up with the idea after helping her husband with his trucking business and realizing it was the same sort of logistical work she had previously been coordinating.
White put all of her knowledge, skills and experience into delivering results at her own company. “H.D. White Logistics has been trending up ever since,” she said proudly about the logistics company that moves freight and recently entered the container storage and drayage market.
White said there was a lack of monetary and informational resources available to her as she started her business. She had to form her own research strategies and rely on her own understanding.
People sometimes try to put the “cart before the horse” and make profits before they have the education to support running a successful business, White said. She encouraged other people of color to take the time to learn as they work their way up the business ladder.
Because H.D. White Logistics is not a technology company, she said it has been more difficult to find capital. “We hear that ‘venture capital is out there for minority women,’ but it’s not out there for minority women in logistics because logistics is not sexy,” White said.
Though H.D. White Logistics looks “exactly the same on paper” as competing companies, White said customers still find a way to say no to her business.
She often gets challenged on her knowledge in the mostly white, male-dominated field of supply chain and logistics. She said opportunities for contracts with customers feel more like interviews when potential customers ask for her references, experience and documentation.
She added that she knows she is asked questions that her counterparts are not.
Despite the many challenges, the company has positioned itself as a valuable resource for customers.
Bigger, better, brighter days ahead
Throughout her career, White has participated in some of the programs marketed to educate and assist minority groups and said companies are “going to have to do a little better.” White pointed out that many companies have people, departments and programs in place to show that they “play ball with minorities,” but companies need to take real actions that help people of color.
Many current programs are trying to push companies’ numbers, she said. White added that if companies showed minority groups how to apply tools instead of providing handouts, mutual benefits could emerge from mentorship programs.
“I think that the George Floyd case opened people’s eyes to just how much minorities were not having a seat at the table, and we were not getting opportunities,” White said. Meanwhile, she is grateful to her white, male counterparts who stepped up to the plate to help H.D. White Logistics succeed.
“Engage in other cultures and understand your neighbor,” White said. “It would be awesome if some of these big boys would reach down and help and share their knowledge — how much greater the world would be.”
Hope White has appeared on FreightWaves’ WHAT THE TRUCK?!? multiple times and supports women and minorities in logistics. She also appeared as a speaker at FreightWaves Sales & Marketing Summit in January.