Bringing Diversity to the Supply Chain
The supply chain landscape has evolved drastically in the last couple of years. We have seen a vast supply chain boom that, combined with the predicted talent shortage of an estimated 2.4 million supply chain professionals, creates many opportunities in the supply chain field for career advancement. Companies need new, more diverse talent as complexity and opportunities throughout the supply chain grow.
However, as is the case in most industries and business functions, supply chain management is primarily run by men. While in recent years, women have gained ground in the supply chain industry, representing 41% of the workforce in 2021 as opposed to 39% the year prior. When we look at the numbers of supply chain leaders, the trend is headed downward. As of 2022, only 17% of Chief Supply Chain Officers in North America are women. So why is it so important to have more females in leadership positions, and how can the industry evolve for a better future?
According to McKinsey & Company's report, "Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters," companies with greater gender diversity have a higher likelihood of having financial outperformance than those with lower gender diversity. Some of the reasoning behind this is that women offer diverse perspectives that challenge legacy-focused mindsets and celebrate innovative technologies such as automation. This, in turn, allows a company to become more adaptable and shift alongside their industry faster and more efficiently.
Examples of successful female supply chain executives can be found at organizations such as UPS, Stericycle, and Johnson & Johnson. Kathryn Wengel, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Supply Chain Officer of Johnson & Johnson was recently listed as number 1 in the Top 100 Women in Supply Chain list. What sets her apart is her decades of expertise and commitment to fostering other women's advancement within the supply chain realm. What we can learn from women like Kathryn is how much more balanced supply chains can be when you lead with three factors: empathy, cooperation, and collaboration.
These three factors are essential as supply chain organizations face the consequences of the so-called “great resignation.” Female leaders are more equipped to persevere and outperform their male counterparts due to their unique perspective and inclusive nature. One needs to be able to put into practice empathy, cooperation, and collaboration to succeed as a business leader. Women executives can attract staff by showing that they have been able to break the barriers that have stood in their way. This is an excellent signal that illustrates a company's strong diversity and inclusion commitment, which is a massive motivator for today's workforce to join an organization.
Moreover, women all over the world are revolutionizing the supply chain industry in a myriad of ways. A notable example of the transformational changes women are having on the supply chain is the Sunkpa Shea Women's Cooperative of Ghana, an Indigenous women-led cooperative setting the example for sustainably producing commodities. Their shea butter production cooperative has been able to revolutionize production practices in their region through the development of Community Resource Management Area that includes zones for production areas, no-take zones, and limited-use zones. The plan they have set in motion for their organic production has been integrated into international supply chains. These amazing women are improving the lives of countless people while safeguarding biodiversity and eliminating deforestation. Many companies have promised to achieve similar initiatives to eliminate deforestation from their supply chain with only a handful achieving this goal. However, true progress is happening at the hands of groups such as the Sunkpa Shea Women's Cooperative of Ghana.
As seen through the examples above, we need more women's voices to be heard to truly be innovators and leaders in transformational supply chain changes. An encouraging sign that we will be able to have more women leaders lies in the number of female college graduates with supply chain degrees. Extensiv, through the Supply Chain Scholarship, has recently provided an up-and-coming female college student with a scholarship to propel her college education to create the next generation of supply chain leaders. You can read her essay that won the scholarship competition here.
There are many opportunities for good within the growing supply chain industry, such as increasing sustainability efforts, diversifying suppliers to reach the underserved community, employing minorities, and creating meaningful products. These are opportunities that would benefit from transformational female leaders.