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Tania Seary is the founder and chairman of Procurious, the world’s first online social network designed specifically for the procurement and supply chain professions. Procurious is a culmination of Seary’s long-held belief that improved resources are critical to the progression of the procurement profession globally. She also led the launch of BRAVO, a first-of-its-kind network designed exclusively to help female professionals in the industry advance their career with coaching, guidance, and peer-to-peer networking, and address the inequalities and disadvantages facing women everywhere. Seary has been recognized by IBM as a “New Way to Engage Futurist.”
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 00:01
How are supply chains doing on diversity? The rise of electric trucks. And more steady growth in logistics last month.
Pull up a chair and join us as the editors of DC Velocity discuss these stories, as well as news and supply chain trends, on this week's Logistics Matters podcast. Hi, I'm Dave Maloney. I'm the group editorial director at DC Velocity. Welcome.
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As usual, our DC Velocity senior editors Ben Ames and Victoria Kickham will be along to provide their insight into the top stories of this week. But to begin today: earlier this week, the world recognized International Women's Day. Historically, supply chain management positions have been rather heavily male-dominated. But like many professions, we're seeing some steady change. How do women now fare in supply chain positions? To find out here's Victoria with today's guest. Victoria.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 01:24
Thanks, Dave. Our guest today is Tania Seary. She is CEO and founder of Procurious, which is a global business network for supply chain and procurement professionals. Tanya's here to talk with us about a recent survey her company did, conducted, on gender bias in the workplace. Welcome, Tania.
Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious 01:42
Thank you very much for having me.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 01:45
Well, it's our pleasure. So, the report I referred to is called "Women in Procurement and Supply Chain: Against the Odds," and it revealed that gender-based adversity is pervasive in the industry, affecting, I think it was something like three-quarters of the women surveyed. Can you tell us a little bit about who you surveyed for the report and what kinds of gender-based challenges they say they're facing?
Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious 02:06
Absolutely. Look, we surveyed more than 200 women. We've got 43,000 members, but 200 women came back who work in procurement and supply chain roles across the globe, and they came back with some very specific, and a little alarming, feedback, that when it came to the specific forms of gender-based adversity that they experience, we heard about women — or, sorry, men taking credit for women's work or ideas; learning that they're paid less than their male counterparts; feeling disadvantaged in the workplace because of their gender; and being asked to perform admin tasks, you know, well outside of their role. So, these are just some of them, and, you know, I can elaborate on any of those if you would like.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 02:56
Yeah, that would be great. Yeah, I was gonna ask you to sort of drill down and talk about some other key findings, but if you want to, to home in on some of those, those are some pretty surprising statistics.
Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious 03:06
Yeah, I think that gender-based, you know, pay inequities that we're seeing across the globe are really, you know, well-established and acknowledged now, that ticularly — yes. So, I think, you know, I go back to my own time when I was working in the U.S., and I was trying to negotiate my salary. My boss just couldn't understand why I even needed more money. He said, you don't have a family, Tania, you know, what do you spend your money on? And I had to really work with him to say, look, that's actually relevant to this conversation, you know, what we talk about is my role and my work. And I guess it's a little bit of unconscious bias, but just some of the challenges that women may be facing in the workplace, but also a perception that we're probably not as forward, not as great at promoting ourselves, and that, you know, potentially our male counterparts do seem a lot more confident and therefore are seen as more competent. I think air time is a big thing in meetings, that women are really challenging just to have their voices heard, and that's been exacerbated through online meetings. And, you know, there's a number of strategies that we can work around that to really help women. The Obama administration, for one, developed this tool of echoing each other, so if one woman in a meeting says something or asks a question, that other women around the table. So look, there, just a couple of things from the report. But yeah.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 04:38
Yeah, so can you elaborate a little bit more on that, in terms of strategies that maybe organizations can use to improve the situation or, or address these issues that you've that you've identified?
Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious 04:49
Yeah, well, with that last point, I think a lot of these issues are just being conscious that this is how the workplace plays out. And with that last example, I just gave of echoing, but for, you know, in a situation where we've got a male leader with a female employee who is very, very competent, but isn't speaking up in meetings, one strategy is actually to roleplay before the meeting, so you know, your manager could say, "Hey, Tania, I really think you should share more during meetings. Look, in the next meeting, we're going to be talking about this. I'm going to throw to you, and then I want you to share." And I know that sounds really mechanical, but literally, what we're trying to do here is break some really long-term habits that we have in the workplace so that we actually have to be deliberate about changing that. I guess another story, you know, I'd love to share is just one that I experienced recently, and you know, these unconscious biases in the way we work, as I said, are just so ingrained, but that's because, I guess, we call them unconscious. But the recent big procurement conference in Europe, two days before we all turn up, there's a note that goes out that says, "Hey, casual dress at the conference, e.g., wear hoodies, jeans, and runners." Now, that might not seem too bad to most people listening, but if we think about if the dress advisory came out saying "Wear a silk blouse, linen pants, and stilettos." That's sort of, you know, highlights the point here, is that, you know, what the dress was actually saying — and of course, the organizers didn't mean it — was to dress like a young male, which automatically makes everyone who doesn't dress like that feel a little less included, and I think what the funny thing is, you know, throughout my whole professional life, I've actually been trying to dress like an older male, you know. I'm wearing a suit, white shirt, scarf instead of a tie. And now that I've got to a certain stage in my career, my profession is basically telling me now I need to dress like a younger man. So look, certainly not going to ruin people's careers or make people not turn up for conferences, but it's just sort of the fabric of, you know, what we're working in at the moment, and just, you know, a couple of small examples that, once again, just make people feel not as included as others.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 07:19
Yeah. Those are interesting examples, for sure. Were there any, you know, I said — I don't want to ask positives, but, you know, this is just like — as you say, it's the way it is, in many cases. But anything from the survey that sort of reflected, you know, the strides women have made in the workplace over the past few generations? I say that not knowing, you know, the questions you asked, in particular, but anything positive, you can mention?
Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious 07:43
Certainly. I mean, you know, we're now at a point where there's, you know, almost 50% of women are in senior managerial roles in our in the procurement and supply chain profession, so, I imagine if we did this survey five or 10 years ago, that number would be nothing like that. And let's face it, our profession is awesome. We get to touch so many things. And overall, it is a well-paid profession. So, we have 50% of women consuming most of the roles to that level across the globe. So that's great news. I guess the opportunity is, of course, for us to break through that glass ceiling and then start to occupy some of the more senior roles. But I really think awareness of the issue and doing a few things and putting, being very deliberate about strategies will really help.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 08:36
How does the data you uncovered factor into the talent issue that many supply chain companies are facing? This problem of gender bias seems to complicate an already challenging environment for recruiting and retaining people.
Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious 08:50
Absolutely, and I mean with a global talent shortage in full swing, what better time than now to really take check and make sure that we're doing all that we can to attract and retain women in our workplace? This goes from ensuring your job descriptions and job ads aren't gender-biased to pay scales, training and development on the job, carers' leave policies, and overall flexibility. Really, everything needs an overhaul, but it's a huge advantage for companies to have a competitive advantage in this talent market.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 09:25
It seems like so much of this is just about sort of listening better, respecting each other, just in general. Is there anything else about what you uncovered, or about this issue in general, that you wanted to share with our audience?
Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious 09:37
Yeah, look, I'm just surprised, you know, that we're still talking about this, and I'm sure everyone listening is sort of the same, you know — "Really is it so? We're so advanced." But the survey has shown that, you know, there are still some serious challenges and hurdles. But you're right, awareness will help, and being deliberate. And I guess from my perspective, you know, I'm concerned because, you know, let's call it out: a rich white woman of a certain age and certain level of success — seems really funny to describe myself that way, but there you go — I still feel discriminated against, you know, from time to time. So, that just makes me concerned. What's happening to younger, more diverse, and less experienced women in our profession? And if we don't get it right within our own organizations, then what's happening with our suppliers around the world who are employing women? You know, that's what worries me a lot. So, we've really got to start today, break some of these habits, address the issue, and then that will have huge flow-on effects for all women in our supply chains.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 10:47
I think that's good advice. Tania, thank you so much for being our guest today. We really appreciate your insight.
Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious 10:53
Well, thank you. It's been really fun joining you.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 10:56
Thank you. We have been talking with Tania Seary of Procurious. Back to you, Dave.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 11:03
Thank you, Tania and Victoria. Now let's take a look at some of the other supply chain news from the week, and Ben, you wrote this week about the steadily increasing numbers of electric vehicles being produced for last-mile deliveries. Can you share some details?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 11:19
Yeah, glad to do. We often, of course, write about electric trucks in the magazine about their benefits, like cutting fuel costs, obviously, and reducing emissions related to that. And then also, there's less maintenance required, due to the much simpler engine. But they're also drawbacks, you know, there's a higher cost than a diesel model up front to buy it. And also, of course, you have to buy new electrical infrastructure to charge those batteries. So for various reasons, there's not yet broad adoption of big electric class eight semis and the freight market. But in recent weeks, we've seen a real jump in a slightly different application, which is the smaller models class for class six trucks that are used for last mile delivery routes. And that appears to be a better use case for a number of reasons. The distances are typically shorter. They usually drive set routes, and of course, they return to their depot or to their DC frequently to reload and recharge. So as an example, this week, we heard that Purolator, which is that Canadian parcel carrier, said it will spend a billion dollars that's within be over seven years to electrify about 60% of its fleet. So that's no longer just a demonstration program of bringing electric trucks on board. We're talking about in that case, 100, all electric vehicles this year, another 150 in 2024, and a total of actually 3,500 of them for the whole plant.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 12:51
Yeah, well, those numbers definitely appear to be much bigger than your typical pilot programs we've seen when companies just want to test engine technologies. Did they say who the manufacturer of these vehicles will be?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 13:04
Good question. Whenever you see demand jump like that, someone's got to actually make them. They did give specifics, and that was interesting to me too, because they're ordering these — Purolator is — from three different automakers. That includes, there's the Ford E-Transit, Motiv Power EPIC4, and BrightDrop Zevo 600. So, Motiv — Motiv Power — is the smallest of those three providers. They're a California startup. They were founded about 14 years ago. But they've been providing some vehicles all along to some of the, particularly industrial food and beverage provider companies, again, serving those urban routes. BrightDrop, people might not have heard of, but they're a unit of General Motors that GM founded in 2021 specifically to make vehicles for logistics and delivery. And then Ford, of course, obviously a huge manufacturer. and we actually saw that they got an even bigger order than this one, for that same E-Transit model, just last month, because the U.S. Postal Service ordered almost 10,000 units of those. And there might be more to come, because USPS is refreshing its entire fleet. So, again, these numbers are, you know, far beyond the testing stage. It really, it looks like we're at a point now where it'll be an everyday experience to see an electric truck bringing that next parcel to your house.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 14:28
Right, and I think it's only a matter of time, a lot will depend I think on how fast infrastructure can be built and we see others adopting the technology and finding success with it. Thanks, Ben.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 14:39
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 14:41
And Victoria, you have the latest monthly figures from the logistics managers' report. What do they say about the health of the industry?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 14:48
Yeah, that's right, Dave. So, economic activity in the logistics industry continues to slow down from the rapid growth rates we saw during the pandemic. Researchers for the monthly Logistics Managers' Index report — or LMI, as we call it — said this week that growth across the industry slowed in February compared to January, actually slipping back to December levels. This means that demand for logistic services remains strong, because we're in growth territory, but that it's slowing from the record levels we saw for about two years. February's LMI measured 56.6, which is down from an all-time high index reading of 64.3. To put that in perspective, an LMI reading above 50 indicates growth across the transportation and warehousing sectors, and a reading below 50 indicates contraction. And just to give you that comparison for 2020 to 2022 that I mentioned, we saw readings as high as the mid-70s, which the LMI researchers characterized as very strong growth. That ran from about mid-2020 through last spring. And these numbers, I should say, come from a monthly survey of logistics managers nationwide.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 15:59
So, does this really mean that the industry is getting back to more typical historical growth patterns?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 16:05
It seems that way, but there's still some sluggishness on the transportation side. The LMI's transportation prices index fell about six percentage points to reach a new low in February. The prices index started to contract last summer, in July of 2022, and it hasn't come back. This essentially means that demand for transportation services is low and capacity is high. so the market continues to be tough for carriers, and we've not reached that hoped-for freight recovery yet. On the positive side, warehousing capacity opened up in February. After more than two years of contracting, that index grew more than 10 points to push it into the expansion category last month, and that means that more warehousing space is available, which is welcome news following many months of tight capacity. Warehousing prices and inventory costs are still very high, though, so the researchers said it will be a while before that added capacity will have a positive effect on the market overall. So, that's pretty much where we sit today.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 17:08
Yeah, I guess it is a start to getting back to normal. At least we can look at it that way. Thanks, Victoria.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 17:14
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 17:16
We encourage listeners to go to DC Velocity.com for more on these and other supply chain stories, and check out the podcast Notes section for some direct links on the topics that we discussed today. And our thanks to Tania Seary of Procurious for being our guest. We welcome your comments on this topic and our other stories. You can email us at email@example.com. We also encourage you to subscribe to Logistics Matters at your favorite podcast platform. Our new episodes are uploaded on Fridays. Speaking of subscribing, check out our sister podcast series. It's called Supply Chain in the Fast Lane. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
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We'll be back again next week with another edition of Logistics Matters. Be sure to join us. Until then, have a great week.
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