Women are gravitating to supply chain. A report titled 2018 Women in Supply Chain—based on a survey conducted by AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management & Education) and Gartner—queried logistics and transportation providers, supply chain consultants, and supply chain software and technology providers. It found that one in five vice presidents of these firms is a woman—versus one in ten in the overall industrial sector.
Their bench is deeper, too—pipelines of 50% or more women in the supply chain organizations, compared to a 31% sector average. And half of the supply chain businesses have specific goals—often reported on management scorecards—for increasing the totals. “These include targeted initiatives to recruit, develop, retain and/or advance women in supply chain,” the report said.
It’s part of the trend of more women taking up manufacturing. And just in time—the manufacturing sector in the United States is staring at a shortfall of some two million workers over the next ten years. Yet according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for 2016, while women’s share of total employment is 47%, they are underrepresented (29%) in manufacturing.
Efforts are underway to right the balance. AWESOME provides opportunities for networking, collaboration and development—including an annual symposium, awards for outstanding women supply chain leaders, and scholarships to university students in supply chain. The Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), promotes women in manufacturing through its STEP Ahead initiative, which mentors and recognizes women and researches their role in the production workforce.
An educational focus on women in STEM and manufacturing is also helping. In a survey by Deloitte, the Manufacturing Institute, and APICS—Women in Manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters—the percentage of survey participants who believed the school system encourages female students to pursue manufacturing careers has more than doubled, from 12% to 29%, in just two years. For business, it’s a matter of fairness and self-interest—84% of respondents felt that having women on leadership teams can help manufacturers deliver innovative and creative approaches and solutions.
E-commerce and globalization have brought supply chain out of the shadows—from the quiet, behind-the-scenes discipline that forecasts, sources, and delivers, to a front-and-center differentiator for businesses in the quest for faster, yet cost-effective and margin-preserving, customer-winning delivery. But a talent shortage is holding companies back. In its 2017 CSCO (Chief Supply Chain Officer) survey of global supply chain leaders, Gartner reported that “gaps in skills/talent were top internal and external obstacles to achieving supply chain goals and objectives.” CSCOs were “more concerned with talent and skill shortages than with technology disruptions, slowing growth, supply risk or regulatory policy.”
In this race to the swiftest supply chain, women are seizing the opening—because of their interest, and because it’s a path to the top. Just ask Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors—she previously headed the global product development role at GM that included supply chain.