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Material Handling – It’s Now a Woman’s Prerogative

By Mark Milovich, 2015 MHEDA President

“One of these days Alice, ‘Boom’ right to the moon!” That was the memorable line Ralph Kramden would say to his wife, Alice, whenever she got the best of him on the TV show The Honeymooners.

Our industry is predominantly male-dominated, but over the past several years we have been witnessing a trend where more women are entering into the material handling field. When I joined the Board of Directors in 2008, we had very few discussions in our meetings about women entering into our industry. In just a short seven years, this topic has become one of priority and MHEDA has been very active in advancing this issue. Here are some of the accomplishments and trends we are experiencing:

First, we cannot have a conversation about women in our industry without acknowledging the MHEDA staff – nine of the most dedicated ladies you’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing and working with. Twenty years ago, MHEDA took a big step in naming Liz Richards as Executive Vice President. Over these years, Liz has assembled an incredible staff, and together they have built MHEDA into one of the most highly respected and envied trade associations, not just within the material handling industry, but other industries as well.

This year I’ve also had the chance to work alongside some of the women at MHI- the Material Handling Industry’s association. Like MHEDA, these ladies are highly dedicated and work wonders for their members.

MHEDA sponsors Classroom Day at the annual ProMat and Modex trade shows. And every year we see more and more female students attending these sessions with an interest in finding a career in material handling or industrial distribution. This past March at ProMat 2015, we hosted close to 300 students. It is estimated that between 30-40% of the attendees were women.

Also, on an annual basis, at our Convention we host college students from several colleges and universities that have curriculums in industrial distribution. And as we have seen at Classroom Day, more women students are coming to Convention to learn the ways of our industry.

At this past year’s Convention in San Antonio, we hosted the inaugural Women in Industry breakfast. This event was attended by more than 40 women of various positions of responsibility within material handling. The exchange of ideas was incredible. Out of this initial meeting, we hope to build new programs of education and networking specifically for the women in our industry as we are doing for the young professionals in our Emerging Leaders conferences. This endeavor is already taking shape. A “Women in Industry” MHEDA-NET group has been established. Their Mission Statement is “To inspire and draw women to the material handling industry by offering resources and a network that foster professional success while furthering the mission of MHEDA”. This group of ten ladies is a pilot group that will be forward-looking to build a strategic plan to increase the presence of women in our industry. From the initial reports, we can expect great things to come.

And speaking of the Emerging Leaders conferences, again, another example of where MHEDA is seeing more and more attendance by women. Dealers are investing in their young talent and providing training for women to take responsibilities in key areas of their distributorships.

And finally another milestone that the Association is very excited about is the nomination of Connie Costner to the MHEDA Board of Directors. Connie is president of Mathand Inc, a storage and handling distributor north of Atlanta, GA. She has been nominated to serve on the Board in 2016. We are very excited to have Connie join the leadership and look forward to working with her in the coming years.

The number of women attendees at all the MHEDA functions continues to grow every year. These ladies are highly engaged, energetic and eager to learn the ins and outs of our unique industry. They’re taking on positions of leadership and responsibility, and jumping right in- not afraid to learn and definitely not afraid to get their hands dirty.

Ralph may have wanted to send Alice to the moon, but the woman of today’s material handling industry have their sights set much higher, and are shooting for the stars!

Mark President