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Shout-out to Women in Material Handling

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“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Once upon a time, even in developed parts of the world, well-behaved women didn’t go out and work. Today, women have broken glass ceilings and infiltrated the old boys network. Not only have they stepped outside of their homes, they have stepped outside of familiar occupations and they are now seen and heard in occupations once considered – strictly masculine.; and what about masculine industries such as material handling? Well, we’ve arrived there as well.

And in honor of International Women’s Day (March 8th), Bluff Manufacturing would like to shout-out to all the women pursuing careers in the industries such as Material Handling, Manufacturing, and Automakers.

Take Lynn Tilton for example – manufacturing tycoon and one of America’s richest self-made women. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on Ms. Tilton in their January 8th – 9th, 2011 weekend business and finance supplement. And according to their numbers, Tilton’s company (Patriarch Partners) owns all or parts of 74 companies with revenues of more than $8 billion and 120,000 employees. Her strategy has been to buy industrial companies on the verge of decline and turn them around with fresh management and/or products. Her success has helped breathe life into the manufacturing scene in the United States at a time when it was clearly dying.

And here’s another first for women in manufacturing – General Motors recently hired Mary Barra as its Head of Product Development. GM is the first major automaker to hire a woman to play such a major role in the Automobile Industry. Barra will manage 36,000 engineers, designers and other staff at GM locations around the globe. With Barra’s impressive background and history with the company and the industry in general, her insights might help GM understand its target market – a significant portion of who are women. According to CNN Money, more than 80% of vehicle purchase decisions in the U.S. are influenced by women, so it just might be the right time for a female executive to step in with a “woman’s touch.”

While there are several women like Lynn and Mary in the spotlight paving the way for other women to take their rightful places in the world of material handling and industrialism, some other examples are not so prominent or visible.

Take for example, Karen Smith, a grieving widow who took over her husband’s business just nine days after his death. She and their son worked to fill the gap left behind by the owner of Troy Belting and Supply Company in Watervliet, N.Y., a third-generation family business. By providing excellent direction and leadership, Karen took the company in the right direction and worked hard to ensure increased sales and manpower. Today, Karen stresses maintaining a healthy work-life balance, good health, and financial prudence to her employees. Her unique outlook has given her unique leadership skills. Her employees have come to know of her as an employer that really cares. Karen feels that there is no place for gender issues in material handling. She says what really matters, is being professional, proficient, and respectful.

What were once strictly male dominated fields are quickly starting to open their doors to women, and material handling is no exception to the rule. Time and again, women have proved their mettle and their contributions are now being valued in every industry.

So, in honor of International Women’s Day – a shout-out to all the pioneering women that have braved new frontiers and have not only survived, but excelled in these industries. The next step is to work hard and together to open doors for other women. Material Handling is still a masculine territory, and as women, we must partner with each other and help each other overcome gender barriers. When we have achieved that step, then we are truly on our way to empowering women, creating social change, and positively impacting business and industry.