(WGEM) — If you’re a parent you probably encourage your kids that they can become anything they put their minds to.
The warehouse is not a man’s world anymore. Especially not at Dot Foods in Mount Sterling, Illinois, where an initiative called “Women of the Warehouse” puts female employees in jobs that were previously considered a man’s job.
Dot Foods Warehouse Shift Manager Tabetha Spencer said, “women now know this isn’t a non-traditional role for them anymore. It’s not a male-dominated field, they can do this job.”
Women of the Warehouse was established in 2015 to attract and retain more female employees in the Dot Foods warehouse
Dot Foods Director of Personnel Suzy Parn said, “we wanted to make sure we had support in place for those women and also development.”
Part of that support is something in the warehouse called a “Light Pick Zone” which means the average weight of the items is 6 pounds, allowing anyone to pick them up.
The Women of the Warehouse program has brought an increase of women applying to work at Dot Foods.
Spencer said, “when I first started working here I was one of very few women that worked here. So to see the growth of women working in the warehouse was phenomenal.”
Now, there are 145 women working on the warehouse floor. That’s up from just 68 women when “Women of the Warehouse” was created in 2015.
The trailblazing program is a boost for the entire Tri-State economy, according to Quincy Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Latonya Brock.
“They give women a place, they give women a voice, they give them an opportunity to have head of household jobs,” said Brock.
Brock says the more head of household jobs available in the region, the easier it is to attract new employees.
“You have individuals that will bring different thinking skills to the table, different experiences. So when you get those people in a room and think about innovation you have some of the best and brightest in the room,” said Brock.
There is also room for advancement. At Dot Foods, many women who started in the warehouse are now in leadership roles.
Pan said, “if they come into the warehouse, prove themselves here, we are the cheering section to help them with their careers.”
Tabetha Spencer started picking on the floor and is now a manager.
Brock encourages all Tri-State companies to think outside the box when hiring. Because she says as our community continues to grow, it’s important to harness the talent of all Americans. That means all genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
“Research shows companies that have a diverse pool outperform their peers,” said Brock.
Something Dot Foods workers say they see every day.
“You get a whole other skill set, thoughts, ways of looking at things. If you had everybody the same, everything would run the same,” said Spencer.
Brock said diversity in the workforce also leads to higher employee retention, which leads to people moving to the Tri-States and staying.
Some local businesses are watching and have some new ideas on how.
And there’s help available from the chamber and Great River Economic Development Foundation.
GREDF encourages all Tri-State employers to think about the importance of workplace diversity, saying it can help a company grow but also the entire Tri-State economy, by attracting and retaining candidates.
They said when employees choose to stay in the Tri-States, they start families, move into houses, pay taxes, and invest in the local economy.
So if you’re an employer looking to expand your workforce, what should you do?
Joi Austin with the Great River Economic Development Foundation said to think about, “how can we make even just our job descriptions a little more inclusive, how can we take out some of that hidden bias that can be in the wording of a job we need people for and make it more welcoming for people to apply.”
E-Book: The 51% Driving Growth through Women’s Economic Participation
US Dept. of Labor: Data & Statistics: Women in the labor force
Harvard Business Review: When More Women Join the Workforce, Wages Rise — Including for Men