While demographics are shifting, men still dominate the worlds of distribution and manufacturing. But with the aging workforce and increased demand for skilled workers in this industry, keeping it that way may create greater challenges down the road, says Jennifer McNelly, president of the Manufacturing Institute, a non-partisan arm of the National Association of Manufacturers.
"As the manufacturing industry competes in a global economy, what we recognize and what is well-documented is that talent is our most important asset," McNelly says in the latest episode of MDM Executive Briefing, Women in Industry. "What that means to us as an industry is we need to ensure that we have the right talent at the right place at the right time."
Why does it matter? As McNelly says, the key to innovation is diversity – something the statistics say the industry is lacking. And that in itself creates a challenge for recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce.
In December 2012, women made up about 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For wholesale trade, women accounted for nearly 30 percent of the workforce. At the same time, nearly 60 percent of those enrolled in two- and four-year colleges are women, and many of those women are pursuing the types of technical degrees that distributors and manufacturers say they want, says Nancye Combs, president of HR Enterprise, Inc.
But getting these women into the industry may require a cultural shift for some, Combs says. These women don't appreciate being called "sweetheart" or being asked "What's a little lady like you doing in a job like this?" she says. "They're there to do business."
Combs and McNelly discuss the challenges for women in distribution and manufacturing – and what the industries can do to foster development of female leaders in the workplace – in the January 2013 MDM Executive Briefing. Listen now at mdm.com/executivebriefing.