How can retail advance more women to leadership supply chain roles?

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/alvarez
Jul 23, 2020
George Anderson

Women currently make up a greater percentage of chief supply chain executive officers, chief procurement officers, senior vice presidents and executive vice presidents than at any time in the past four years, according to research from Gartner.

At the present time, 17 percent of executive positions in supply chain operations are held by women, a six percent increase over last year and the highest level since the consultancy began tracking gender diversity in 2016. This year’s “Women in Supply Chain Survey” included responses from 177 supply chain professionals.

“The increase in women executive leaders over the past year is a positive sign, however the survey showed that women don’t consistently make it through the pipeline,” said Dana Stiffler, vice president analyst with the Gartner supply chain practice. “Lack of progress is not something the industry can afford at the moment. Supply chain’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recovery is crucial, with lives and livelihoods at stake. This is a pivotal time for many women in mid-level and senior management positions.”

Gartner found that the numbers of women in first-line supply chain manager and supervisor roles dropped from 33 percent to 31 percent year-over year. There were also declines in senior managers (29 percent to 25 percent), directors (27 percent to 23 percent), and vice presidents and senior directors (28 percent to 21 percent).

Women now account for about 39 percent of the supply chain workforce, with retail and consumer goods organizations offering some of the best opportunities forward. The percentage of women at the vice president level in retail and consumer product industries stands at 25 percent, nearly double industrial organizations, which frequently hire individuals with educational and work experience in science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds.

“Another notable difference between industrial and consumer/retail supply chain organizations is goal setting,” said Ms. Stiffler. “Consumer and retail organizations were more than twice as likely to have formal targets and specific goals in management scorecards for gender diversity.”

Gartner’s research also found that career pipeline planning and management practices are more important to keeping women within supply chain organizations and advancing them into leadership roles than corporate diversity initiatives such as employee resource groups and women’s leadership development programs.

“Not a single respondent cited employee resource groups as a top action for progressing women to senior leadership roles in supply chain. Leadership development programs or improved work-life balance also didn’t make the list,” said Mr. Stiffler.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important are supply chain opportunities in helping retailers win the competition for workforce talent against other industries? What do you see as the keys to recruiting and retaining women and other underrepresented demographic groups into supply chain roles within retail?

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Braintrust
"The problem is that supply chain is often seen as a dirty trucks and sheds industry, where machismo is more important than brains."
"Now females face the black box of AI algorithmic bias embedded in the hiring, promotion, and salary decision technology tools used by industry."
"How about just freaking do it?"

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7 Comments on "How can retail advance more women to leadership supply chain roles?"


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Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

There may be a lingering misperception that women managers in retail are better suited to “soft skills” areas like merchandising, marketing and HR — while men are better suited to fields like IT and supply chain management. This is nonsense, of course, but it has probably perpetuated the problem of gender imbalance. Fixing the problem starts with hiring; companies recruiting from schools with supply chain management programs ought to make an extra effort to hire more women.

Promoting women up the logistics career ladder is another way to provide aspirational “models” for those new recruits. In any case, the entire field of supply chain management is too critical to the future of retail to allow old-school gender and other biases hold companies back.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

This is truly a systemic problem. Of course, supply chain has been a male-dominated world. However, not only women in leadership, but also women of color and diverse leaders are needed. Studies have shown that diverse companies are more profitable. Recruitment should center around HBCUs and other institutions that foster diverse education. Also, suppliers, business partners and other ecosystem participants can offer incentives to drive diversity.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

It’s simply unbelievable that we’re having this discussion in 2020.

Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust

Retail and particularly the supply chain is an ideal environment for women in business and for women to realize senior positions. Supply chain is all about juggling lots of balls at the same time, looking for the most efficient way of operating and handling large numbers of men and all things women excel at.

The problem is that supply chain is often seen as a dirty trucks and sheds industry, where machismo is more important than brains. It starts at the schools and we need to get supply chain professionals out to schools to educate and capture their imagination at a young age and show them that it is not that old traditional image, but a vibrant intellectual challenge of an occupation.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

How about just freaking do it?

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust
Ask any female in business or the workforce, structural discrimination in the form of institutional discrimination is alive and well in 2020. This supply chain discussion points to the stereotypical outcomes females face in advancing through the ranks in any industry or business. Recruiting and retaining women, the underrepresented majority (49.6% of the world is female) no longer is in the realm of human cognition based conscious or unconscious bias on behalf of males in this supply chain use case. Now females face the black box of AI algorithmic bias embedded in the hiring, promotion, and salary decision technology tools used by industry. Algorithmic models are not held accountable to a code of ethics as for example doctors and lawyers are held accountable too, to keep people safe. Curiously devoid of formalized ethics, tech has the ability to create great harm and bias at scale. Lack of an ethics platform has led to years of inherent algorithmic bias designed and managed by the world view of individual programmers who design algorithms to solve for what… Read more »
Kim DeCarlis
BrainTrust

When groups are under-represented in specific roles — women CEOs, black board members, female engineers — the reality is that it is a supply chain problem. Organizations need to focus on developing talent early in the process. In some cases that means a focus on math, science and technology at the primary education level. In others, it is sponsoring college programs, scholarships and internships to promising students and focusing on their ongoing growth. And, providing mentorship and role models so that underrepresented groups seem see someone who looks like them excelling in these roles is another key to success.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The problem is that supply chain is often seen as a dirty trucks and sheds industry, where machismo is more important than brains."
"Now females face the black box of AI algorithmic bias embedded in the hiring, promotion, and salary decision technology tools used by industry."
"How about just freaking do it?"

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