Mentorship and Support in the Workplace
- It is an excellent way to impart wisdom and knowledge of an industry
- Communicates unwritten rules of the work culture and how to navigate politically
- Directly leads to faster career growth by defining paths
- Introduces high potential employees to leadership teams
- Helps retain employees by ensuring they are welcomed and embraced
- Provides a second set of eyes within a company to provide guidance
Why is mentoring women in the packaging industry so important? The best place to start the discussion is with some demographics. Women are in the workplace in record numbers today. Based on the Department of Labor charts below, the workforce has changed drastically in the last 75 years, in terms of gender. It is well known that women have not progressed at the same rate, in terms of career growth and salary, especially in technical fields such as packaging.
Currently, packaging is the third largest industry in the world and according to a study by McKinsey, the packaging sector generates $900 billion in annual revenues worldwide. The U.S. packaging industry was valued at $183.92 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $218.36 billion by 2025 (Mordor Intelligence). A Smithers Pira study projects the worldwide packaging industry will grow to $1.05 trillion by 2024.
As the incoming workforce from reaches gender parity in the packaging industry, it is only natural that the packaging industry will follow suit in order to maintain a stable workforce.
How do women in packaging fare in the industry? From a salary standpoint, the growth in the number of women in the industry, including new female graduates from packaging schools is not equivalent to salaries. I will touch on how mentoring catapulted my salary later.
In general women leaders in packaging are similar to the number of women leaders in other corporate environments. The few women who have moved into management or leadership in packaging is much higher than 50 years ago; however, most women who have been in the packaging industry for decades admit that they did not have as much mentoring or help navigating the system of their companies compared to their counterparts in order to move forward in their career path. This suggests that women are not mentored at the same rate as men in the workforce.
Here are some of the reasons why mentorship may not be as readily available for women as men:
- Mentorship is traditionally viewed as a process where leaders select someone they relate to and see potential in (some suggest people relate to those most like them on a superficial level)
- Cultural expectations that women with families will not be as engaged or ready to do whatever it takes to move up to leadership. Some women face the incorrect assumption that work is secondary, family responsibilities are primary and can’t be delegated.
- There may be a perception that women in the workforce at times are viewed as not as interested in career growth
- Men are more apt to relate to other males in the workplace (during the #MeToo Movement, some males expressed reluctance and attribute the reason to #MeToo and steer clear of mentoring female employees).
Now that these “obstacles” have been listed, be aware of them, but realize that mentoring helps careers and it is important to work with people who view mentoring as strictly a professional process between employees and that it is giving back and helping whatever company you work for. A significant component of mentoring is building relationships.
In the end, mentors don’t have to fit the traditional image of seasoned male managers who choose to reach out to people of their choosing and take people under their wing. Mentoring is changing, just as the workforce is changing. Mentors come in many forms; it is not limited to a passive process of waiting to be selected. It is just as important for those interested in growing and developing to be open to people who are willing and able to help, guide and teach others along the way.