Words of Wisdom from Women @ WERC

In an industry that is made up almost entirely of men, one organisation is working to improve gender diversity and boost the bottom line says WERC in a guest post

The Warehousing Research and Education Council’s Women @ WERC program was designed to meet the unique needs of women pursuing a career in the warehousing, logistics and supply chain industries. Through networking, mentoring and educational opportunities, they aim to make it easier for women to build their careers while at the same time promoting the bottom-line benefits of increased gender diversity in the supply chain workforce.

“I would love to see more women at the leadership level throughout our industry; one way to do that is to make sure we attract more women to the field at the college level, as these young people are the ones with the potential to be our next leaders,” said Kristi Montgomery, Vice President of Innovation, Research and Development at the Kenco Group and one of the newest members of the WERC Board of Directors.

Montgomery is encouraged to see WERC’s increasing diversity on the Board and among the membership as a whole, “but, I still think the industry has room to grow and improve, and one of the best ways women can do that is to network with each other,” she said. “If you’re new to the industry, find a mentor; if you’re like me and have been around for a while, find those people that you can help to grow in their careers and become industry leaders.”

Studies show that gender diversity in the supply chain boosts competitiveness, productivity and financial returns, and that companies with more women in leadership roles markedly outperform those without. Still, most supply chain organizations do not have gender diversity goals.

As the program has developed, both female and male members of WERC have identified four priorities to help increase diversity and inclusivity within the logistics workforce. These include offering resources and strategies for building allies within the industry, enhancing equality within the workplace, advancing careers and growing leadership opportunities, and fostering organizational cultures that support healthy and productive work-life blending.

When it comes to building professional relationships, Gwendolyn (Gwen) W. Rogers says being an active member of WERC (for 25 years) was key. Rogers volunteered at the Conference registration desk for the several years and she recommends it as a fantastic way to meet a lot of people in a very short period of time.

“I tend to be a reserved person,” she adds, “so at every conference I have specifically tried to step out of my comfort zone and always sit with new people at every session and meal.”

Former WERC Board President (2010-2011) Catherine Cooper, Founder and CEO of World Connections, credits her time on the Board as offering her a chance to develop skills outside her profession that she would not have otherwise. “For example, public speaking in front of 1,000 people — you don’t often get to do that in a company, but you do at WERC,” she explains, adding she also mastered financial statements while working with WERC.

Many of WERC’s veteran women said relationships and mentoring is key, and several opportunities to provide mentorship to young women have come to former WERC Board President (2004-2005) Susan Rider, President of Rider & Associates, through her WERC connections.

“The first thing I would tell them is, ‘you have to develop a thick skin. You can't get insulted when you’re at a warehouse and it’s all men, and they use bad language. And, if you walk into a warehouse in heels and a mini skirt, don’t be surprised when you get cat called,’” she says, noting that her advice is rooted in her own experience.

At her first job in the field, she had two revelations within her first week: “There truly were practically no women in the field at that time. I’d heard people say 98% men in the industry, but it was closer to 99.8% men,” she chuckles. “And, I realized very quickly that, as a woman, I had to know twice as much to gain respect and credibility in the industry.”

“I strongly encourage women who are new to the industry to tap into the women who have been here a while. We’re all here to help each other, and we want to,” she said. “WERC is a perfect resource for making those contacts.”

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