Throwing money at the problem won’t fix the supply chain industry. Hiring more women will

Covid-19 economic downturn affects most vulnerable supply chain industry

Source: Getty Images.

Blokes. They’re everywhere. I say this in jest, but as a woman entrepreneur and CEO in supply chain, I’m the minority everywhere I go.

Women at all levels of employment in the supply chain, transport and logistics sector are underrepresented and difficult to retain.

And unlocking their potential in our industry could be the difference between a thriving post-COVID economy and bare supermarket shelves.

In spite of supply chain companies investing in new technologies to shore up operations, their number one solution to the labour problem is higher wages.

Throwing money at the problem when the technology for digitisation exists is mind-boggling. It’s a temporary solution to an endemic problem.

But in the past, it worked: higher wages led to positions being filled.

Now, more cash is no longer enough.

With more employment options, workers are placing greater value on relational elements, such as a sense of belonging or having caring and trusting teammates at work.

It’s no surprise, then, that the logistics industry is struggling to fill roles. We’re not known for workplace ‘warm and fuzzies’. This is a problem that can no longer be laughed off or dismissed.

The lack of women working in the supply chain industry is an endemic problem from the bottom up.

Transport is still seen as a job associated with masculinity; it limits women through a lack of belief that women are physically capable of performing certain job requirements.

This has a ripple effect, as workers progress their career, and ultimately reach leadership roles, by being promoted from the existing warehouse staff.

When women are hired, they report feeling they are not treated equally by their leaders, and like so many industries, they are paid less than their male counterparts.

And even though women leaders outscore men in employee surveys, most logistics companies have yet to adopt basic diversity targets.

The supply chain industry must do more

It’s time for supply chain leaders to start attracting and supporting a massive untapped labour resource: women.

So why should the industry be making an effort to hire (and retain) more women?

You are doubling your applicant pool — now and in the future

Hiring more women in the warehouse translates to more women acquiring specialised skills in manufacturing production, quality control, and supply chain management, particularly in planning, inventory, forecasting or sales.

Your current team is burning out

The continuing impacts of the pandemic mean most of our supply chain teams — from workers through executive leadership — are dealing with burnout.

But this isn’t just from COVID-19. Front-line workers like truckies and delivery drivers do back-breaking work that takes its toll on their physical health. Ever seen how kegs get dropped off to a pub? It is labour that’s unsustainable for a long time. Why are we okay with men breaking their bodies for the sake of the role? Women can be part of this solution.

A more inclusive company culture benefits everyone — not just women

A company culture encouraging diversity means all employees are more likely to be offered arrangements such as flexible work schedules — a necessity when juggling childcare and eldercare. Men are parents and caregivers too.

Your client servicing needs work

I’ll be frank here: courier companies have an atrocious reputation for customer service.

Chances are you’ve been shopping online during the pandemic. Ever tried to track down a missing parcel? Good luck getting a human on the phone — and when you do, service attitude tends to be poor. It’s also a maddening experience.

Your customers will tell you how they feel over the phone once — the next time they’ll vote with their wallets.

Diversity in hiring, with the right training, can mean a more empathetic and considerate workforce.

The year ahead will be tough, but brings opportunities that will benefit the industry for years to come. 2022 is the year we can transform into a genuinely welcoming industry that allows women to rise to the top.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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