While the role of women in the packaging supply chain has experienced evolution over recent years, the industry has remained slow to adapt and resistant to change. Now more than ever, it’s critical that, while still a minority in the sector, women are provided with a platform to meet, share experience and celebrate the important achievements made in the industry.
That’s where networking comes in. Large business networking events such as conferences or exhibitions have existed in the industry for a long time but due to the gender imbalance in the packaging sector, they have not always been a welcoming environment for female employees. This has led to the growing need for women’s networking groups. Networking groups and events that cater exclusively to women have been a source of controversy in the past, with some accusing the format of celebrating women for their gender, not their skills. This could not be further from the truth, events such as those hosted by WIP UK allow voices to be heard that either through sparse representation or career limitations, may not otherwise be heard.
While the disparity exists at every level of the packaging industry, from operative to office, it is perhaps more noticeable in senior positions where boardroom level roles are predominantly held by men and which can make advocating for equality rather a daunting experience.
What’s more, habitual behaviour that puts women at an inherent disadvantage in the workplace is prevalent. Known as microaggressions, these subconscious learned behaviours can range from assuming female employees are more junior than they are because of their gender, to businesses that limit career growth opportunities for women through thoughtless, or sometimes even non-existent, child and family policies.
One of the major draws for networking, particularly at WIP UK networking events, is that the transactional approach is gone. Delegates are free to conduct business as they wish but this is not the focus or goal – it’s about the commonality and meaningful connection that benefits all parties in an environment without the pressure of sales targets or day to day business operations, that results in actionable progress for the industry.
The wider spectrum of B2B industry has been male dominated for so long that, as we’ve seen in recent years, on the whole it can be highly resistant to change. Networking is a great way to shatter some of the barriers that women experience when advancing careers. When not addressed, issues become normalised and harder still to change. It’s not just meeting up for a coffee and a chat or trading business cards, networking is sharing experience in an environment without judgement, inspiring one another to succeed and propelling the industry forward to make it an attractive career proposition for women in the future.
While the disparity in gender representation within the packaging supply chain is still so prevalent, too often, women can feel excluded from important conversations and topics which only serves to exacerbate the issues. Networking events designed for women offer an important platform for discussion that drives progress by ensuring every party has an opportunity to speak their mind, get involved and accelerate wider change.
Women in the packaging industry today face challenges that affect them disproportionately and all too often create barriers. Networking is an extremely important opportunity to find out from peers that have followed a similar journey how they’ve dealt with these issues, as well as how they can be tackled at the root, for the benefit of future generations. Part of that support is recognising and celebrating the important contributions of women in the packaging industry. Many times, the achievements of female employees in the packaging supply chain are diminished and so networking events such as those held by WIP UK shine a much-needed light on these accomplishments.
Not only raising the profile of the packaging industry and the talented individuals that operate within it, networking is an opportunity for women in packaging roles to meet face to face and build confidence. The 2018 Women in the Workplace report from intelligence agency McKinsey & Company revealed the scale of the problem in shocking detail. The study highlighted that women in the full spectrum of business proportionally get far less access to senior leaders than their male counterparts. Where this becomes an inherent challenge to women in packaging, is that the same report shows that employees with regular access to senior leaders are more likely to ask for promotions, as well as receive them, putting an additional unnecessary barrier to female career progress. Networking shatters this dynamic by creating an environment where access to leadership and role models is open and accessible to all, throwing down the metaphorical ladder to the next generation of empowered leaders.
In hosting or attending networking events, the packaging industry as a whole is strengthened. Achieving greater gender parity has important economic benefits to the supply chain. Women constitute around half of the buying public and so can offer valuable commercial insight at each stage of the packaging supply chain. Packaging today has to meet the rising demands of modern consumers and there’s no better way to ensure this is accomplished than by inviting representation from a large proportion of the buying public to create a product or value proposition that truly resonates with the audience.
Female employees that feel seen, supported and driven, bring in a culture of change and progress that permeates business processes. Women have so much to offer the packaging industry that it the cultural tendencies that have created an imbalance actively harm the sector and stagnate progress. This is why networking is so vital; it doesn’t just provide a platform to highlight success and share experience for individuals, it strengthens the industry itself, widening the knowledge base and throwing open the doors to a demographic that historically, in B2B environments, has been subject to career limitations.
By continuing to raise the profile of women in the packaging sector from concept to delivery, WIP UK aims to create a global platform that connects women to opportunities and expertise that would not otherwise be available, as well as advocating for principal changes in areas such as diversity, childcare allowance and work-life balance.
Alongside other STEM disciplines, packaging continues to suffer from a disparate gender ratio. While recent studies have shown a steady incline in the number of women entering STEM fields, the packaging sector has traditionally been slow to respond to this growth and in many ways lags behind its engineering and manufacturing counterparts. WIP UK endeavours to effect industry progress through making training and mentoring programs widely accessible to women, providing a solid foundation of development in packaging-specific skills.
WIP UK celebrates workforce diversity in the packaging industry, as well as highlighting opportunities for growth and development. To find out more about upcoming WIP UK events and how you can get involved, click here.
To find out more about the Women in Packaging initiative, contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org.