( Photo courtesy PMA )

The fresh produce and floral industries face an uphill battle to attract, develop and retain the talent needed to not only survive but also to thrive in the future. We struggle to compete with sexier, better-known industries for talent. 

How we interact with our workforce is changing, as boomers retire in droves to be replaced by generations X, Y (aka millennials) and Z who work to live rather than live to work. And our industry’s increasingly technical jobs now require that we hire a more educated workforce. 

To better compete in this environment, start by looking first at half of the workforce — the female half. There are good business reasons why we should be attracting, developing and retaining more female talent. Yes, women are already part of our workforce; now we need more of them in the right places.  

For example, while grocery shopping is increasingly a shared responsibility, it still falls mostly with women. Hartman Group’s “Food Shopping in America 2017” finds women are the main shoppers in 76% of households with more than one adult. So, it just makes sense to have our top consumers’ viewpoints well represented in the decision-making levels in our businesses.

To grow your business and help our industry to grow a healthier world, we must employ the brightest minds — men’s and women’s.

Consider also the proven ROI of having women on management teams and in board rooms. 

McKinsey & Company reports companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely than companies in the lowest quartile to outperform on profitability. 

To fill our industry’s increasingly technical jobs, we will need a more educated workforce. Women are increasingly seeking higher education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, women comprised more than 56% of students on campuses nationwide for the fall 2017 semester.

Men in our industry play a critical role in not only hiring more women, but also helping them to succeed by mentoring and promoting women and creating paths for women to participate and lead. Just as you plan for other aspects of your business, what is your plan for increasing your business’ gender diversity?

Gender diversity isn’t about displacing men. It’s about dipping into a broader talent pool at a time of tight talent competition. To grow your business and help our industry to grow a healthier world, we must employ the brightest minds — men’s and women’s. Perhaps it helps to reframe this as gaining a diversity of thought needed to instigate a broader range of ideas and capabilities and resulting success. However you choose to think of it, increasing your company’s gender diversity is more than good public relations, it is good business. 

P.S. Do you know an incredible man or woman who is already cultivating women’s potential in our industry? Then nominate them for Center for Growing Talent’s new Women’s Catalyst Award. Nominations are being accepted through Aug. 10. For more details, visit Center for Growing Talent's website

Alicia Calhoun is the Produce Marketing Association’s Center for Growing Talent vice president of talent portfolio.