The staffing industry is no stranger to change, to evolution, to upheaval.

The past year alone has forced leaders at every level to contend with daunting geopolitical challenges as well as the stunning advancement of generative AI.

Yet in my first few months as SIA’s new executive editor, I’ve been dazzled by how staffing firms have met these challenges head-on. Companies have formed new working groups to quickly recommend internal changes, launched new initiatives to (smartly) enable artificial intelligence and empowered diverse voices.

My conversations with staffing professionals have also shown me their immense dedication, pride and work ethic. They’re energized by what ChatGPT and other generative AI can do for the industry, and they’re learning as much as they can about the future of VMS and MSP solutions.

“Now is the time to innovate,” said Greg Dyer, the chief commercial officer of Randstad USA, speaking on a panel at this year’s Collaboration in the Gig Economy conference.

Staffing firms are embracing that call to innovation. For one, they’re developing new environmental, social and governance standards — and being quite vocal about it. In SIA’s analysis of the most frequently used words and phrases within staffing firm annual reports, ESG was mentioned a stunning 969 times in 2022, compared with only 24 times in 2019, according to the September report by Research Analyst Francesca Profeta.

A bright spot. One evolution that is especially encouraging to see is that of women in leadership though at first glance the statistics appear grim.

Women comprise 66% of staffing’s internal workforce, but they hold just 37% of board seats. And even as technology transforms the industry at a breathtaking pace, women still make up only a third of the global STEM workforce.

Data like this, from WBC Benchmark Survey 2022 and MIT research, respectively, paints a picture of a staffing industry that is unbalanced and underrepresented.

Yet the leaders we honor in this year’s Global Power 150 — Women in Staffing list bely those statistics. Their nominations depicted executives and managers alike who have championed digital transformation, introduced new tech-driven tools and spearheaded new business divisions, all while championing the successes of others. They are building communities where women’s voices are heard — and followed.

And this is what I find encouraging: This year’s Staffing 100 list for North America, a benchmark for women’s representation at the highest levels of governance, included 28 women. Meanwhile, the Staffing 100 Europe list released last month highlighted 29. These are the highest numbers ever for each of these lists, which are in their 12th and 10th years, respectively. Eight years ago, when the Women in Staffing list was first introduced, there were 21 women on the North America list and 13 on the Europe list.

“The initial purpose of the Women in Staffing list was to raise awareness of the power and achievements of women within the industry in order to see them elevated to the upper levels,” SIA’s Senior Editorial Director Sharon Thomas tells me. “This year’s results are a far cry from 50% representation, but it’s still promising growth.” The ultimate goal, she adds, is for the Women in Staffing list to become unnecessary.

Disintermediate ourselves? Back to the topic of upheaval and technology. Will our embrace of technology disintermediate humans? Not at all, according to Theresa Carroll, the CEO of Magnit, a 2023 Global Power 150 honoree.

“I think we’re all going to get a lot smarter and a lot better at what we do,” said Carroll, who was speaking on the same conference panel as Dyer. “I’m looking forward to it.”

I’m looking forward to it, too. Over the next year or so, technology will help SIA’s editorial team speed our news to you and revitalize our industry benchmark lists.

We won’t be alone in embracing new tools. Take a sweep through our Global Power 150 — Women in Staffing list, due to be published Nov. 15. We honor these leaders for their commitment to driving innovation, deploying new initiatives at scale and, above all, elevating other women within the staffing industry.

Some of the most common phrases in their profiles? Connect, support, help and grow.

That is global power.