Women are a minority in the supply chain industry (and their workforce participation dropped during the pandemic). But companies can raise awareness and interest in the space by heeding key lessons around flexibility.
Most people, regardless of gender, can relate to the career challenges women face – and positive change will benefit everyone.
While there’s an oversupply of professional supply chain job candidates, automation is helping to ease the shortage of blue-collar workers.
Companies are being better employers, in and outside the warehouse. Hint: a little empathy helps.
Automation isn’t just about executing processes, but also creating promising new career paths.
This interview is part of a quarterly series highlighting the contributions and career paths of women leaders making their mark in warehouse automation and the supply chain field.
To better understand the challenges facing the supply chain labor market, GreyOrange spoke with Charlie Saffro, the president and founder of CS Recruiting, which specializes in the space. As the leader of this 40-person, multi-million dollar organization, Charlie has witnessed a labor transformation during her 16 years working in the industry. In this three-part blog series, she shares insights on the challenges and opportunities women face, ways employers can do a better job attracting and retaining women, and how automation can enhance workplace flexibility for all.
During the pandemic and even after, when the kids are not going to school, you have working parents where a lot of times it’s going to be the mom that steps in to handle family matters. But it doesn’t only need to be this way. My husband and I ran the business together for almost seven years. When Covid hit and our kids were in need of individual attention, my husband took the back seat in the business and I remained in a leadership role to run the company. This setup has proven to work well for us and I hope it’s a positive example for society to eliminate the biases around working moms and their responsibilities at home.
I also think inflation has a lot to do with recent changes in the talent market. I was just talking to someone the other day who said it doesn’t make sense to go back to work, because “by the time I pay for childcare, there isn’t much left in my salary to make it worth working. I am either going to break even or lose money, and as much as I’m willing and want to work, it doesn’t make sense financially.”
Female labor force participation rate. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
For professional roles, I actually think women have an advantage right now. Todays’ market is yielding more job seekers than jobs, which allows companies to be more selective with their hiring decisions. When the market shifts like this, many companies put more emphasis on their DEI initiatives and strategies to recruit more minorities. These companies are thinking, there’s a lot of talent out there, and the only way we’re going to find the budget is if we find the perfect person, and many times the perfect person has something to do with their gender diversity.
When you add gender to the equation, the situation becomes exacerbated in relation to blue-collar roles. Many women do not want to work on the front lines in a role that requires physical labor. But beyond that, it’s about safety – rather than discrimination or equal opportunity – and whether a woman would feel comfortable being in a large facility by themselves in the middle of the night.
Supply chain leaders realize their organizations must deliver results in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and employee well-being.
About three-quarters of Gartner survey respondents are investing to enforce equitable employment practices and provide employees with purpose-driven work initiatives.
Our society is starting to look at that balance and see more stories about women in the industry and the value they bring. While our clients would never mandate that we only present female candidates, they will often express interest in hiring a female for a leadership role for a variety of reasons. Many companies have had positive experiences working with other women leaders and look to support this demographic by hiring someone who can show that it can all be done and to inspire other women along the way. There are more conversations around demographic preferences than we’ve ever had and companies are moving to diversify their ranks, which is a step in the right direction.
Universities and colleges can promote supply chain logistics as a career to a more diverse workforce.
When I look at the number of roles we’ve filled with women candidates – at the industry conferences I go to, and how many members or attendees are women – it’s around 25%. That number significantly drops when you look at leaders in the industry, or even female entrepreneurs as a whole. But we’re making progress. I can’t say exactly where the ratios were when I started, but it was much lower than 25%. I was recently at a conference where there was a lot of talk about putting the onus back on universities and colleges to promote supply chain logistics and transportation as a career, and to really draw in more minorities. I think that’s a great suggestion, but it’s unrealistic unless you’re a hiring company that has a direct relationship with the university in your town, and you’re getting all your candidates from there. So, we need to do more as a collective workforce to encourage and inspire companies to hire more minorities to diversify their teams.