Warehousing is one of a number of industries which used to be firmly male-dominated. It was rare to find women in supply chain roles, and those interested in joining the industry were understandably deterred by its image problem. There were two key problems – a laddish workplace culture, and a perception that the work involved back-breaking and dangerous manual labour.
But skip forward around two decades to the present day, and a lot has changed. The latest statistics from Gartner show that around 41% of the supply chain workforce is female. This figure has been steadily climbing, up from just 35% in 2016.
Not only are women actively participating in the industry; they’re leading it. Around 33% of all supervisor and line manager roles are held by women.
What’s behind the change?
A number of factors have contributed to this major step forward in gender diversity within warehousing. These include the rollout of automation technologies, which have levelled the playing field in terms of the work required and created many new roles.
Leigh Laramy, head of supply chain practice at global consultancy group REPL, explains:
“Whereas it was once heavy manual labour, and quite a dangerous environment in some ways, now there’s both greater levels of health and safety, but also the use of robotics and automation that make many functions a lot less physically stressful. That’s opened up opportunities for people to
come into that space that may not have considered this career path before and be just as effective.”
In many cases, women have bypassed warehouse floor roles altogether. They’ve headed straight for either strategic or technical roles. This is a trend looks likely to continue, as the supply chain analytics market is predicted to grow by over 15% by 2024.
The education system has also played its part. A total of 15 universities around the UK now offer supply chain management degrees, provided a clear and targeted career path into the industry. This makes warehousing roles more accessible to women and candidates from different backgrounds.
More work still to be done
Over the last two decades, the supply chain sector has managed to successfully overhaul its image and improve gender diversity within the warehouse. However, there is still much more work to be done.
The Gartner figures also show that women only hold 15% of the most senior executive roles, meaning that it is still men that are steering the industry. It’s critical that organisations keep working to attract, nurture and value female leaders. A strategic approach is needed, extending from recruitment through to creating the right workplace culture.
There’s also a clear business incentive for doing so. Studies show that firms with inclusive workforces make better, faster decisions a huge 87% of the time. They also have 2.3 times higher cashflow than companies that don’t make diversity a priority.
Looking for a new opportunity within warehousing, or hiring new talent? Get in touch with our specialist recruiters here at Quest Employment.