Women Moving Ahead in Supply Chain – Sharing Some Of Our Reader Responses

April 28, 2014

Women Moving Ahead in Supply Chain – Sharing Some Of Our Reader Responses

We were thrilled at the response to our post recently asking the question, “Why Aren’t there More Women in Supply Chain Leadership Positions?” We knew it was a hot topic because a few different publications in the Supply Chain and business press and several business groups from LinkedIn had chimed in.  But we didn’t realize how hot a topic it is.

For anyone who missed the initial post, we quoted a few different articles on the subject that provided 3 explanations for why women might be disproportionately not as well represented in Supply Chain leadership positions (compared to other job functions). To reiterate these points are:

1.       Supply Chain can appear to have an image problem, and this means that some women don’t necessarily see the immense potential in the field.

2.       Women are less likely than men to apply for leadership roles if they don’t see themselves as having every qualification listed on a job description.

3.       Men are traditionally promoted based on potential, while women tend to be promoted on results.

These explanations are discussion points (rather than our hard and fast opinion) on the subject through our research and reading within Supply Chain and we wanted to put to our network. It’s a complex topic and there are so many factors at play that there are a wide variety of interpretations. So many, in fact, that the post received a few dozen comments on social media. They came from Supply Chain and Operations professionals in Canada, the U.S. the Middle East, Europe and Asia. We had comments from both men and women, and comments that agreed and disagreed with our initial article. We wanted to share some of the more stand out comments (with the authors’ permission, of course), with our own responses.

Let us first just say that we love any opportunity to get a dialogue going with our network. It lets us connect with new industry professionals and hear a diverse range of opinions – which is really what it’s all about when it comes to social media.

We hope you find the comments interesting and look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Supply Chain Specialist, Construction Industry, (Alberta, CA):

“It depends on what you classify as supply chain and what you classify leadership positions. I know quite a few women in leadership positions in the supply chain; supplier managers, logistics, warehousing, procurement management, contracts managers and Sr buyers, all at a decently high level. I am sure that there are many sociopolitical reasons why women are not on par with men at the C level (catalyst Inc study Dec 4, Feb ) and at that level there are less positions available. I am noticing a shift in women getting into the supply chain and it will take time for that talent to develop into leadership positions. In addition supply chain management as a discipline is relatively new concept for many companies; not all but many. My conclusion is that sociopolitical reasons and a lack of supply chain recognition contributes to the deficit of executive women in supply chain. Oh! And you have to be fearless (but smart), hustle and take a lot of crap in the beginning! But isn’t that every job? 

As you can see I don’t agree with the posted article by Bronwen and Sam. We still have some work to do women in changing our image; it is frustrating that articles like this written by women propagate the myths that we self limit our potential. It’s not true if we don’t buy it! ( supply chain humor. ha ha). Mostly, don’t give up, believe you can make a difference and keep going until you get what you want. that’s a buyers life! (with a pinch of win-win)”

We really appreciated this comment even if the author didn’t agree with our original post. This author makes an interesting argument: that the more times people repeat the idea that women self-limit their potential, the more that stereotype takes hold and becomes a pervasive idea. She also makes an interesting point that Supply Chain itself isn’t as recognized as perhaps it should be by every company, which is a topic we hope to cover in future posts.

Operations Engineer, Aviation Industry (Dallas/Fort Worth):

 “I have not found [a lack of women Supply Chain leaders] to be true in the companies for which I have worked (all manufacturing). In those companies there have been many women in high ranking positions throughout the business; production, engineering, finance, and supply chain. In my current position I support, up through several levels, a very knowledgeable and capable woman director of supply chain. In fact, the entire company is run by a woman Marillyn Hewson, Chairman and CEO at Lockheed Martin! I’m not saying there isn’t a disparity between the number of men vs women in managerial roles, I just don’t believe it’s because they don’t want to get dirty. I think it still comes from the beginning – men went to work and women stayed home. Even though women now make up approximately 50% of the workforce, most companies were run by men and it’s a waiting game until those at the top move on and the replacements have a 50/50 chance of being a women, if there’s a women in a position to take the opening.”

This response came from a man who wanted to offer his general support for women in Supply Chain. While it might be statistically true that women don’t occupy as many Supply Chain leadership positions as men, there are still lots of women in Supply Chain at a high level. These kinds of anecdotes from individuals’ own experience was very common in the responses to our post. In this commenter’s opinion, the lack of women in Supply Chain leadership is mostly institutional inertia from an earlier era that’s bound to end as today’s executives begin to retire. Many people expressed an opinion that a transition to more women in Supply Chain leadership is already underway. Still, we’re glad to have raised the topic and impressed to see that things are certainly going in the right direction for women in the Supply Chain world.

Thank you all who provided such thorough comments on our post, and we’d love to hear input from anyone else in our network who has an opinion on this issue.

Over and Out

Bronwen and Sam


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