Crafting a More Inclusive Tomorrow for Women in Warehousing

Amid the echoes of machinery, a silent revolution is brewing in the Indian warehousing industry. In the clatter of crates, we find the rhythm of change. Traditionally characterized by its inherent nature to employ more men and operate in multiple shifts, the industry is now taking strides towards building a more inclusive workforce. However, the pandemic and its aftermath have, unfortunately, pulled women back into their homes, resulting in a skewed male-to-female employee ratio in the sector. This has prompted industries, including warehousing, to place a renewed emphasis on empowering women to re-enter the workforce.

Despite the challenges faced during the pandemic, recent data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) provides a glimmer of hope. The unemployment rate for women has shown a significant decline, dropping from 14.9 percent in December 2023 to 11 percent in January 2024. This positive trend signifies a noteworthy recovery and suggests that efforts to reintegrate women into the workforce are gaining traction.

The warehousing industry, in particular, is playing a pivotal role in this shift, recognizing not only the need for gender balance but also the valuable qualities that women bring to the table.

As we celebrate Women’s Day, echoing the theme of ‘Inclusivity,’ it is important to explore how we can make our warehouses more women-friendly.

The Gender Ratio in Indian Warehousing

In 2023, India ranked 127th of 146 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index, and a lower 142 on women’s economic participation and opportunities. This is echoed by the country’s female labour force participation rate (37.0%), which is more than 40 percentage points lower than men’s (78.5%), according to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2022-23. However, the report stated that while the female labour force participation rate rose to its highest level of 25%. Female labour force participation was up 2.7 percentage points from Q3FY23, and a percentage point higher than the previous quarter.

Acknowledging the gender disparity prevalent in the Indian labour force, particularly in warehousing, sets the stage for the need for change.

Unequal Pay: One of the most glaring challenges faced by women in the warehousing industry is the issue of unequal pay. Despite performing tasks of equal or even greater complexity, women often find themselves earning less than their male counterparts. Addressing this disparity requires a comprehensive reassessment of pay structures, ensuring that compensation is based on skills, experience, and performance rather than gender.

Physical Demands and Stereotypes: Warehousing has long been associated with physically demanding tasks, perpetuating stereotypes that dissuade women from pursuing careers in the field. Breaking free from these stereotypes is crucial for creating an inclusive environment. Employers should focus on recognizing and valuing a diverse set of skills, including organizational, managerial, and technical abilities, to ensure that women are not limited by outdated perceptions of what constitutes a ‘suitable’ role within the industry.

Limited Advancement Opportunities: The lack of clear pathways for career advancement often poses a significant challenge for women in warehousing. This can be attributed to both implicit biases and systemic barriers. Companies must actively promote a culture that values meritocracy, offering mentorship programs, training initiatives, and leadership development opportunities to ensure that women have the chance to rise through the ranks and assume leadership roles within the industry.

Need for skilling and development: Addressing the gender gap is urgent, as effective skilling initiatives can significantly broaden work opportunities for women and enhance their overall workforce participation. However, a report by ORF in India highlights the shortcomings of current skills training programs, citing difficulties in recruiting and retaining women both during training courses and subsequent employment. The National Skill Development Mission, launched by the government in 2015, underscores the importance of skilling for women, recognizing them as a crucial demographic. Yet, the report emphasizes the need for gender-sensitive skilling programs that account for restrictive social norms. In the era of digital transformations and evolving work landscapes, skilling must adapt to bridge the gendered digital divide. Collaborative efforts through public-private partnerships emerge as a promising avenue to navigate and overcome the challenges posed by the skilling conundrum.

The Need for More Women Leaders

In the pursuit of a truly inclusive and thriving warehousing industry, addressing the glaring gender disparity in leadership positions is vital. Currently, women are underrepresented in managerial and executive roles, limiting diversity in decision-making. The need for more women leaders transcends mere representation; it involves tapping into untapped potential and unique insights. Diverse leadership teams drive innovation, enhance problem-solving, and foster inclusive cultures. According to an EY Report, the rise from 6% to 18% representation of women in boardrooms since 2013 signals dedication to diversity, but the growth is slow. Actively promoting women into leadership positions within the warehousing sector contributes to industry success and sustainability, paving the way for a new generation of women leaders.

Despite successful efforts to bring women back into the workforce, progress is needed. Warehouses, evolving into Grade-A infrastructure, offer women opportunities in roles like quality control, Inventory Management, Data Analysis, Technology, etc., while advanced machinery handles physically demanding tasks. As the industry redefines itself, empowering women becomes a strategic imperative for unlocking its full potential, ensuring a resilient future.

This article has been authored by Ms. Aditi Kumar, Head – Corporate Affairs, TVS ILP. All views are her own and do not necessarily represent those of Logistics Insider.

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