Alison Cusack on Some Hard Truths and Rallying Behind Women in Supply Chain

As supply chain leaders continue navigating an onslaught of shortages, delays, and disruptions, female trailblazers continue to emerge backed by momentum and best practices. Building back more robust supply chains and reimagining new approaches to logistics, women leaders are fueling innovation and trailblazing a brighter path forward. These female supply chain leaders are building back—better. We understand the importance of women tapping into our collective power together—one another to carve out a more diverse, inclusive industry and professional community. 

When women in supply chain rally behind each other, they make big things happen—breaking out of status quos and glass ceilings and limiting gender roles to help advance the entire community. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain we’re dedicated to continually doing our part every month. We’re honored to feature these trailblazing women supply chain leaders and their confident moves to the top as they realize a stronger more vibrant supply chain and professional community.

In our Let’s Talk Supply Chain Women in Supply Chain series, we introduce the female leaders who are dominating the chain now, and unleashing better, smarter outcomes. We ask what and who motivates them and how each of them is doing her part to create positive change in their organizations, industry, and community. Let’s Talk Supply Chain shares the obstacles these woman leaders have conquered, giant leaps of faith, and the beginnings that ultimately brought them where they are today, leading businesses across the global supply chain. Keep reading for career advice, inspiring breakthroughs, and expert guidance on breaking to the top of the chain.

This November, we’re proud to feature Alison Cusack, Founder and Principal Lawyer at Cusack & Co Pty Ltd, President at WISTA Australia, and Lecturer at Victoria University—where she earned her Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Business and Finance with honors. Cusack boasts other standout academic achievements as an official graduate of the Australian Taxation Office and a member of the ANL (Australia and New Zealand Logistics) Corporate Counsel. She has been hailed with a broad deluge of honors and awards including coming in as a finalist for Transport and Logistics Lawyer of the Year, Young Maritime Professional of the Year, 30 Under 30 Corporate Counsel, and was “highly commended” for the DCN Young Achievement Award.

  1. How did your professional journey lead you to a career in supply chain?

I started in-house, fresh, and eager to get stuck into the shipping industry. Working for a shipping line, I had such an amazing experience of day-to-day logistics, which a lot of people, especially attorneys, don’t get. This unorthodox background shaped my practical and commercial client approach to legal so they can get on with the job of moving cargo (safely!)

Then I “went to the dark side” (according to carriers) the cargo interest side. The cargo interests didn’t have access to the tools and the information to keep business momentum with the best possible legal position. I aimed to fill that space.

  1. What has leading in a male-dominated industry taught you as an attorney in supply chain?

Honestly? Sometimes it really sucks being in a male-dominated supply chain industry. I can’t just be in the industry. I must be a woman in the supply chain industry. Some sector pockets are switched on, across-the-board inclusive, and they just “get it.” Then others make me fight every day just to be respected in my field. It can be incredibly exhausting, and sometimes I think, why bother? 

Then I remember how much I love this industry and show up as the best version of myself. Being part of WISTA Australia Inc. helps me feel like I’m not alone in the fight, and by showing up as my best self, I can inspire women around me to do the same. I can’t wait until inclusion across the board is so ordinary that we forget about these before-times when we had to talk about breaking gender roles.

  1. How have your mentors empowered your career path forward?

I’ve had a couple of different mentors, both official and unofficial. They’ve helped me to navigate the professional world, how and when to fight the fight, and how to show up unapologetically as my authentic self. The boundaries frequently blur. 

It’s difficult to know where they end or begin in corporate. Having mentors guide and help me navigate the changing rules and fluctuating boundaries makes the journey smoother.

  1. Which woman in supply chain inspires you and why?

Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou—the WISTA international President, motivates me to keep going and continually empower others. She leads the entire WISTA organization globally and on a volunteer basis. Despina sees the worst of the industry (from our collective horror stories) and continues to lead with overwhelming kindness and passion. Whenever I feel drained by the state of the industry’s limitations on gender inclusion, she is always there to hear my frustrations and give me gentle encouragement to keep going. Despina inspires my advocacy in my volunteer role as the WISTA Australia President.

  1. When did you first find your voice as a supply chain leader?

I had a breakthrough with a new level of clarity when the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) invited me to be a keynote speaker. The association hosted the IMO (International Maritime Organization) Secretary-General, visiting Australia at that event. It took a lot of careful consideration on how I wanted to talk to the IMO theme of “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” while balancing the need to call out current behaviors, look to the future, and empower my female colleagues to push towards this greater goal—collectively. 

I became comfortable with being known as a battering ram (or thunderous.) I am passionate about women being able to safely and freely participate across all areas and on all levels of the shipping, maritime, and logistics industry. I won’t apologize for that.

  1. What do you want to tell women looking to dive into supply chain and those already in the industry?

You are enough. You are amazing. You are smart. You deserve to be in the supply chain industry—our industry. We need you in this industry—and we need you seen and heard in this industry. You are allowed to be ordinary. You are allowed to be extraordinary. I want you just to be you. That is enough—you are enough. 

Showing up as yourself *is* diversity. Do not let anyone bully you out of the industry if this is what you want to do. There is a place for you here in supply chain where the devastating talent gap is crying for more talent and new approaches to leadership. Join your local WISTA chapter if you want to do more—meet other women to support and support you. Rally around each other because together we can move mountains, and we will.

  1. What have you learned on your supply chain journey so far?

I’ve learned that the right people will welcome my knowledge, enthusiasm, and values—values they share and actively reinforce. One such group is a group of industry friends and colleagues that we call the (virtual) Happy Hour Crew. I’ve never met one of this fantastic bunch in person, but they encourage me, support me, cheer me on, and are my safety net—one that stretches across the globe. 

Instead of allowing negative voices to overpower mine, I’ve grown to lift my gaze above the watermark and look forward to the future. Ahead of us is more fun, more shipping, and more innovation. The law doesn’t have to be dull either. Now I feel more confident than ever to push forward rebranding the concept of lawyers, especially in the shipping industry. *Confetti throw* Suez Canal memes for everyone!

  1. What does it mean to you to be featured in our Women in Supply Chain Series?

It means a great deal to be recognized as someone of influence and a face and force of positive change in the supply chain. Visibility is critical to reaching and inspiring other women to step up to their full potential across the chain.

This Women in Supply Chain feature was made possible by our sponsor, Apex Logistics. Apex Logistics International Inc is deep rooted in diversity and culture, led by our own “Woman In Supply Chain” CEO, Elsie Qian; these values are why we partnered with Let’s Talk Supply Chain for the Women In Supply Chain series. Apex is recognized as one of the fastest growing Top 25 airfreight forwarders in the world, with a network of over 2500 global employees in more than 70 countries.

About The Author:

Naomi Garnice is the Director of Marketing for MicroAge where she leads the marketing team and creative strategy. Naomi has been a content marketer for 14 years and is passionate about creating engaging content that matters. Throughout her career in marketing for technology, healthcare and supply chain organizations, Naomi has advocated to highlight female thought leaders in male-dominated industries.

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