Today marks the beginning of International Women’s History Month, a global celebration of the social, economic and political achievements of women, as well as a call to advance gender equality worldwide. This is a significant time to reflect on where we have come and what still must be achieved:
- According to the United Nations, women earn 77 percent of what men are paid.
- Gender disparities in job quality result in lack of access to social protections, such as retirement pensions.
- Women are less likely to be entrepreneurs and face more disadvantages starting a business.
- Only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
What this means for ASCM corporate members — many of whom are facing a relentless supply chain labor shortage — is that there is a vast talent pool out there to help create stronger networks and position organizations for sustainable, profitable growth. In the United States alone, women comprise about half the workforce and earn more than half of all college degrees; yet, based on our latest research, they hold only 29 percent of manufacturing jobs. Clearly, too few businesses are tapping into women’s valuable skills, perspectives and insights.
But there are some notable exceptions. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on KitchenAid’s innovative tuition-reimbursement and corporate-training programs, which are helping the company find, hire and cultivate top female talent. Author John D. Stoll tells the story of Director of Plant Operations Jennifer Hanna — “a dream hire for the many companies wrestling with talent shortages these days.”
Hanna has worked for KitchenAid’s owner, Whirlpool Corp., since graduating high school. “The appliance giant helped pay her way through community college … then handed her increasing responsibility, encouraged her pursuit of an M.B.A. and put her on KitchenAid’s senior leadership team,” Stoll writes. Today, she is responsible for more than 1,000 people building KitchenAid stand mixers.
Investing in potential
It is true that the economic prospects for workers with few skills are deteriorating even as demand for talent rises. But when companies like KitchenAid turn entry-level jobs into real career opportunities, people enhance their skill sets and economic realities while businesses gain motivated, productive and highly qualified employees.
According to a recent poll, nearly 80 percent of people said tuition assistance made them more likely to stay with an organization, and 60 percent were promoted within two years of graduation. Hanna is proof: “I wanted to find a company that would invest in me at the age of 18,” she tells Stoll in the article.
ASCM was built on the value of learning and development, and we continue this essential mission today. We are currently scaling up our Supply Chain STEM program to reach many more teachers and schools. At ASCM 2019 in Las Vegas, we will host our third Women in Supply Chain Forum, featuring discussions on how to attract, empower and retain women. And we will honor this year’s winner of the ASCM Award of Excellence — Diversity and Inclusion Champion, which recognizes a professional who fosters environments that value equality. With these and other key programs, the global ASCM community is on its way to a better world — for people of all profiles and backgrounds — through supply chain.