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Empowering Women in the Supply Chain Industry.

There is positive change happening in the traditionally male-dominated supply chain and logistics industry. Women are stepping into the spotlight of leadership roles more than ever before. The path to gender parity is about more than just opening doors; it’s also about spanning bridges across persistent gaps, and cultivating a supportive community that empowers women to thrive. The true end goal is to foster a future where women in the industry don’t just survive, they also lead the way.

According to Gartner’s 2023 Women in Supply Chain Survey, the future may be here — almost. The highlight of the survey is that women currently represent 41% of the supply chain workforce, with 26% of those in C-suite leadership roles. There are still challenges to face and overcome. In other words, there is more work to be done.

The Challenges Women Face

When it comes to gender diversity in the supply chain industry, it’s clear we’re making progress. Significant challenges still persist for women in frontline supply chain roles, such as warehousing, transportation, logistics, and more. For example:

  • Lower representation. When compared to men, women remain significantly underrepresented, which hinders their access to career goals and leadership opportunities.
  • Unconscious bias. Stereotypes remain in place, and bias continues to influence hiring decisions and career advancement, all of which limit the opportunities available to women.
  • Work-life balance challenges. A lack of family-friendly policies and limited flexibility often disproportionately impact women, leading to higher attrition rates.
  • Safety concerns. Women may be hesitant to enter traditionally male-dominated environments because of concerns about their personal safety. Or, if they’re already in such a role, they may hesitate to remain.

In addition to the above work-life balance issues, women often face greater challenges when it comes to family care commitments. The evidence? A lack of flexibility was the reason behind the exit of 16% of the women surveyed. Any or all of the following factors could contribute to higher attrition rates among women with family commitments, exacerbating labor shortages in general, and perhaps hindering their own career advancement. 

  • Shift work and overtime. If faced with erratic schedules and mandatory extra hours, women who have to deal with childcare and perhaps eldercare responsibilities are placed under significant strain.
  • Limited predictability. Disruptions and unforeseen delays are often the norm in the industry. This can further complicate planning and childcare arrangements, leading to additional stress and anxiety.
  • Lack of childcare options. Non-traditional work hours coupled with insufficient access to affordable and reliable childcare may mean choosing between work and family.

Since caregiving isn’t included in the GDP, the true economic impact of women’s contributions is under-estimated. This omission helps to mask the real costs of their under-participation in the industry and the entire economy, ultimately hindering innovation and growth.

Finally, in line with attrition, there’s yet another challenge that needs to be mentioned. Pay inequity remains a persistent issue within the industry, and many women are leaving their roles because of it. Another data point from the Gartner survey points out that compensation issues are the top reason for women leaving supply chain organizations mid-career. 54% of women in senior positions have left to seek greater compensation, and 41% cited a lack of career opportunities as another significant factor for leaving.

Enhancing Female Representation

Achieving gender equality isn’t just about moral implications and social responsibility. Opening doors to female talent unlocks potential and can push the industry towards greater innovation, resilience and growth. The added diversity creates teams that are better at problem-solving and decision-making, which leads to increased profitability and competitive advantages.

Such changes are easier said than done since it also requires breaking down barriers that hinder this progress. There’s still a level of unconscious bias that can creep into hiring and promotion decisions, and many women may not be aware of career opportunities within the supply chain. Together, this means there’s a vast pool of untapped talent.

The solution lies in proactive strategies. According to the Gartner survey, a healthy 70% of respondents have established gender diversity objectives, which is up from 62% the previous year — a hopeful sign that a positive trend has formed.

Breaking Down Barriers 

With set goals in mind, achieving gender parity in the industry could be more than just a dream. The good news is that we’re already on the right road to a more equitable and sustainable supply chain, but success will require a multi-pronged approach. The industry needs to address historical biases, invest in female talent, and create inclusive workplaces.

Raising Awareness

Industry associations such as AWESOME (Achieving Women's Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education) are working hard to advance women’s leadership. Advocacy on an industry level is important to bringing these issues to light and helping women feel confident that the problems are recognized.

Education and Skills Development

There are many active programs today that focus on equipping women with the necessary skills and knowledge for diverse supply chain roles, including STEM education and leadership training. Lacking some of the traditional hard skills (such as STEM disciplines) can prevent women’s participation in specific supply chain roles from the beginning. Gaining those skills can open up new opportunities immediately.

Inclusive Workplaces

Companies are implementing diversity and inclusion strategies to create supportive environments where women feel empowered to thrive. This includes equal pay, flexible work arrangements, and mentorship programs. Creating an inclusive workplace is not just about helping women feel valued. It is the right thing to do, and leads to the best personal and business outcomes. 

Lending Strength to Empowering Women

When it comes to empowering women in the workplace — mentorship and community stand out as two successful approaches. All employees, regardless of gender, race, or status, benefit from mentorship. The lack of women in supply chain leadership makes finding mentors more difficult, so companies must emphasize facilitating such relationships.

Mentorship

Mentorship isn’t just a tool for personal development; it’s also a foundation for industry innovation and growth. Mentors can play an invaluable role in preparing the next generation of leaders, especially women, by transferring knowledge, experience and insights to those in the early stages of their careers.

For women in the supply chain, mentorship can go beyond professional development, further empowering them, and helping them through the unique challenges they face in a predominantly male-dominated field.

The Power of Community 

Events, conferences, and networking gatherings can all be used as platforms to show off support for women in the industry, providing them with a greater sense of belonging. Men, especially those in leadership roles, can play an important role in advocating for their female colleagues by recognizing and promoting their achievements, and making sure they have equal access to opportunities. They can also speak up against any observed bias or discrimination.

Bridging the Gap

The industry is making strides, but the journey isn’t over. Gaps still exist and challenges still remain, but the momentum so far is undeniable. Going forward, let’s continue to raise awareness, shatter stereotypes, and build towards a supply chain that empowers women.

Source: supplychainbrain

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