Women in Supply Chain: Where Did This Topic Go?

March 16, 2017

Written by Melissa Clow. This guest post first appeared on Kinaxis’ industry blog, The 21st Century Supply Chain.

Over the years we have discussed the topic of women in Supply Chain at length on our blog. But to be honest, I haven’t heard much lately and I wonder what has changed. I used to see plenty of industry news articles, webcasts, conference sessions dedicated to the importance of diversity in supply chain, but today’s hot topics are IoT, machine learning, augmented reality and the like. Perhaps progress been made already and it’s no longer the pressing issue it once was? I’m not so sure.

In today’s current environment I believe that it is important to continue to keep women, and diversity, top of mind. Despite it being 2017, we know the gender split is not even in this field. We know the importance and focus of the supply chain function is intensifying in business so you would think that reexamining the current organizational make-up of today’s supply chain would be an important consideration. In the words of my former colleague Lori Smith, “Ironically, for an industry that is all about balancing supply and demand, there doesn’t appear to be much balance when it comes to its own human resources. It’s time for supply chain organizations to do a reality check and apply some basic planning and course correction initiatives within their own internal organizations.”

On a related note, SCM World recently published a report on Concurrent Planning. In this paper, Matt Davis discusses the importance of removing the functional barriers in supply chain management and addresses how current structural models should connect the data, processes and people. Davis describes the result being democratizing decision-making and how this democratized planning model could shift business processes and supporting organizational structures. With concurrent planning, it will challenge current organizational designs. It will increase the frequency of what-if scenario analysis, connect the humans involved in and impacted by the scenario, and create a broader organizational ability to ask the right questions of the data.

The skills of the future supply planner, and the leader, may have to adapt as well. It seems that by reexamining current operating models, we will see that decisions can no longer just be made hierarchically and without collaboration. The important attributes of a future supply chain worker/leader will be different. Could concurrent planning lead to a more diverse workforce? Or, generally speaking, are the qualities valued in future supply chain talent divided more along generational lines and not necessarily gender? Obviously these are tough questions and I’m not sure the answer. I would love to see a more inclusive world in supply chain, business in general and in everyday life. Perhaps progress is not always linear. 



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