Women in Supply Chain: How Far Have We Come?

So, what does supply chain constitutes? When you imagine supply chain what comes to your mind? Warehousing, logistics, vendors, suppliers, procurement officers, raw material, processing, finished products, distributors, retailers, customers, finance, invoicing, documents!! Yes, all of these constitutes supply chain.

Historically just like any other, Industrial Statistics Global Supply Chains have been lopsided towards male employees and we even more skewed as one, goes up the hierarchy at CXO level positions.

Gartner’s third annual “Women in Supply Chain Survey” found that “Things have largely remained flat,” with low female representation in leadership roles. However, the proportion of women in C-suite roles did improve, from 2016’s 7% to 14% in 2018, although this was down from 15% in 2017.

Research shows that women don’t get the same advancement opportunities and pay as their male counterparts in the world of supply chain and logistics. It’s a dichotomy that while we see hiring managers being lopsided in their hiring strategies, we also see women not actively applying for such positions. The perception is largely driven by gender discrimination and a field job kind of scenario.

Supply Chain as management study has remained by far a man’s choice of study in management diploma, and it’s only now we are witnessing a newer generation of women coming up and showing their desire to study supply chain and aspiring for careers in warehousing, logistics, procurements, supplies, trade finance, etc.

If we see Shipping & Logistics Industry, we see a remarkable lack of women employees and some of the possible reasons are:

  • Women don’t get same advancement opportunities as men.
  • Lack of vertical or even horizontal movement for women employees in senior management roles.
  • Lack of women in leadership positions acting as role models and mentors.
  • Company cultures not fostering career development for women or make women feel like outsiders.
  • Preconceptions of women as overly passionate and emotional, unable to make smart decisions under pressure.
  • Verbal and sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Pay inequality (according to a 2017 Logistics Management survey, the average male respondent earned 46% more than his female counterparts).

India is right now in the stage of inflexion where supply chains are getting digitalized, manual documents are getting replaced by e-documents. Thanks to the entire digital revolution, the way we procure goods, store them, process them and sell them is changing. With the advent of Blockchain, AI, Robotics & Augmented data analytics, demand-supply gaps have been met, however, there is real-time access to data for every moment at the click of a button which is assisting organizations to plan better, procure appropriately, serve better and optimize resources.

All of above is a great opportunity for women to consider a career in supply chain. Women naturally bring along with them an ability to multi-task and understand the macro-level ecosystem.

Having more women in supply chain and logistics roles can offer companies a great competitive advantage. An Australian report on workplace gender equality cited the following benefits:

  • Better organizational performance
  • Boost in company reputation
  • Ability to better attract talent and retain employees
  • Improved productivity and economic growth on a national scale

“Diversity in backgrounds, gender, cultures, perspectives, and experiences is a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable business success.” –  Sabine Mueller, CEO of DHL Consulting.

Need of the hour

  • Educating students about opportunities in supply chain.
  • Having women role models in supply chain.
  • More awareness through online and offline supply chain courses for graduates and undergraduates.
  • Organizations to focus on Inclusive Hiring Efforts.
  • Organizations to target, train, develop, retain and advance current women employees into future leaders in supply chain.
  • Create women-focused talent retention programs, providing female mentors to employees, and working to counter unintentional biases by including more women in the hiring process itself.
  • Reimagining workplace roles with the advent of technology; it’s no more an only man’s work!
  • Increasing women’s visibility in supply chain and logistics.
  • Promoting women’s success stories.

Looking Ahead

I do foresee more women taking active participation in senior leadership positions of large industries, banking sector and logistics as well. Technology is here to stay and it only shall help in bridging this gap of gender inequality in Global Supply Chains boosting inclusivity in workplace.