MHI Solutions

Industry Trends

Women Speaking Up About the Gender Gap

Women are increasingly being heard in the supply chain industry, but there is still much progress to be made.

* By Fiona Soltes *

While interviewing with her current company more than 20 years back, Annette Danek happened to catch a glimpse of the person in charge of fulfillment in a corner office.

She knew right then that it was not only the organization she wanted to work for—but also the job she wanted to hold. The reason? That executive was female.

“I thought to myself, ‘OK, so there’s a woman in charge. Maybe I have a shot at her job,’” said Danek, SVP Fulfillment at Penguin Random House. A decade later, after moving up through the ranks, she did have that job.

“What I think is interesting is that we just hired an engineer last summer, and when I asked her why she took the job with us, she said, ‘Because I saw you in the job.’ It still matters. On one side, that’s great for me, and great for our company. But on the other, it’s sad because it’s still the case, even 25 years later.”

Women in supply chain and material handling aren’t quite the anomaly they once were. But we’re still nowhere near parity. This year, Gartner released its third annual “Women in Supply Chain Survey,” conducted in partnership with AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management & Education).

According to the 2018 report, research shows “sustained strong representation of women in the senior-most ranks of supply chain organizations relative to other functions. We also find more supply chain leaders spearheading their own initiatives to attract, retain and advance women into senior leadership roles.”

Over the last couple of years, the numbers of women in supply chain leadership have remained fairly flat. In 2018, women made up 37 percent of the total supply chain workforce, and 14 percent of CSCOs, SVPs, EVPs or CPOs reporting to the CEO. In 2017, those numbers were 37 percent and 15 percent, respectively. But the percentage of organizations with formal goals to increase women leaders has risen to 18 percent in 2018 from 11 percent in 2017. In both years, the percentage of organizations with a general objective to increase women leaders remained consistent at 32 percent.

“Increasing the visibility of successful women leaders as role models is one of the most important things companies can do to impact recruitment and retention, as well as advancement of women to senior levels,” the report states.

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There is no silver bullet to building a workforce that can thrive in this new digital environment. It takes leadership, collaboration, innovative talent sourcing, continuous training and improvement. This issue of MHI Solutions focuses on this important topic from the technologies driving changing skill sets to industry-academia collaboration to how to hire, retain and develop the digital supply chain workforce.

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