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Women Make their Way into the Supply Chain

Written by Ethan Cunningham
September 19, 2016

Supply chains need to bring more women into this industry.

Supply chains need to bring more women into this industry.

Women have fought for gender equality for decades, yet there is still room for improvement in the U.S. Consider the gender pay gap. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2015, women made an average of 80 cents for every dollar earned by men despite the fact that females make up half the workforce and receive more college education. However, women have come a long way in establishing their ability to perform just as well on the job as men, and as of late, they are proving their worth in supply chain management.

The Current Picture of Women in the Supply Chain

Supply chain management has long been a traditionally male-dominated industry, and it’s not keeping pace with the gender balance other fields are embracing. The research company Gartner and the executive women’s leadership group Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education (AWESOME) released their 2016 survey analysis for women in the supply chain earlier this year. The research found that females make up only 35 percent of supply chain positions, and as the corporate ladder goes up, their presence goes down. Only 5 percent of supply chain executives are women.

Supply chain management is growing in complexity as more companies shift to global expansion and customer expectations become more challenging to meet. This industry must have the most talented workforce possible in order to not just overcome these obstacles but to excel, and leaving women out of the equation can only equal disaster.

Bringing Women into Supply Chain Management

According to the AWESOME and Gartner 2016 survey, less than 50 percent of respondents said their companies strive to move women into supply chain roles. In response, researchers recommended that companies enhance their recruitment strategies to pull more of this gender into entry-level positions. Businesses must also have clear pathways for growth so that once women get their foot in the door they can jump up to higher positions.

One way to improve recruitment strategies is to integrate more advanced technology. New graduates are looking for places to work that share their tech-savvy mindsets, and simple ERP systems don’t send that message. Having an automated data collection solution, on the other hand, not only puts companies ahead of the competition when searching for talent, but it has incredible benefits for efficiency and productivity.

AWESOME and Gartner also advised companies set goals to enhance women’s positions in supply chain management and make those objectives clear across the business. Communicating this message is vital to reaching success in gender equality. In fact, according to Fortune magazine, some current female supply chain leaders have voiced that setting quotas may be beneficial, too.

Also, women must be advocates for themselves, explained GlobeCon Freight Systems. Joyce Lewis, the Los Angeles branch president of APICS, said internal factors are part of the problem, and females shouldn’t underestimate their worth.

“Stereotypes within the SCM field must be broken, especially in the area of emotional intelligence or the acceptable behaviors for men versus women in the corporate environment,” she said.

As such, women must be able to identify their strengths and understand the impact they have on job performance in supply chain management leadership positions.

What the Future Holds

While only 5 percent of supply chain executive positions are held by women, there is hope for a brighter, more gender-balanced future. Speaking with Supply Chain Management Review, Chicago’s Ajilon Professional Staffing vice president Tisha Danehl said her company’s research found that rate is poised for growth. As of late, the supply chain industry has seemed to realize the advantage of encouraging women to rise and been making efforts to close the gender gap.

“The supply chain industry as a whole offers unlimited opportunities for women and encourages women to pursue a career within the industry,” Tisha said.

In turn, women are preparing to take advantage of those opportunities. Ann Drake, the CEO of DSC Logistics told SupplyChainBrain that there are more women than ever taking supply chain courses in college. Meanwhile, Drake is seeing growing participation in AWESOME – which she founded – and is actively working to bring more females into this field.