When you encourage women to grow within your organization by creating a career path for them, you can close the industry's glaring gender gap, according to Alicia Copeland, vice president of operations for Standard Supply and Distributing Co. Inc., Dallas, TX, and co-author of a Texas A&M study on distribution's struggle to attract women, in 4 Tips for Rethinking Talent Management.
When distributors fail to engage women on the career ladder they risk losing them to opportunities outside the industry.
In 2015, women accounted for about 30 percent of workers in wholesale distribution, according to the Current Population Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. And contrary to the perception that industry demographics have been shifting, that percentage hasn't changed much over the last decade.
"For men, they can start out in the warehouse, move to a counter position, then to inside sales, outside sales and so on," Copeland says. "There's a path for them to advance."
Research from Texas A&M University revealed dramatic differences in the roles men and women play in distribution: there are fewer female sales representatives, sales managers and senior leaders, while women are overrepresented in accounting, human resource and marketing roles.
"Women aren't viewed as value-add," Copeland says. "And that's a problem."
"We need to confront (positional bias)," she says. "It goes back to that perception of women being a cost center. If you really take a minute to think about that, that's a really strong statement.
Companies won't be able to attract women if they don't do anything to make their companies attractive, career-building places for women.
Read more about closing the gender gap and other HR advice in 4 Tips for Rethinking Talent Management.