There may still be tire marks in the parking lot from all the times I came to a screeching halt in the last spot available, running late once again. I, and many other working moms, would run out of our minivans with damp hair, sometimes wearing coffee like a wardrobe accessory in our haste to get out the door.
Early on in my career I lost count of all the times I’d settle in, look around the table, and realize I’m the only woman in the meeting. Again.
Working in the supply chain as a woman can be stressful enough on its own; add motherhood to the equation and the coffee stains make sense as a multitasking badge of honor. I’m far from the first to do this and thankful for those who came before me.
Gender gap trends in the supply chain show that we’ve made a difference. According to Gartner, women account for 41% of the supply chain workforce in 2021, a slight increase over 39% in 2020.
While we’ve come a long way in the past 20 years, there’s still progress to be made so that by the time our daughters join the workforce equality won’t even be in question. Organizations are still looking for ways to create an equitable workplace in the supply chain ecosystem for women and working moms. As someone who has lived and breathed that for more than 20 years, I have a few suggestions.
Be sincere with diversity efforts
The motivation behind a diverse workforce is arguably more important than the inclusion itself. Any company looking to check a box or meet some kind of metric that will shine a flattering light on itself is doing it wrong.
According to a poll conducted by Glassdoor, 80% of women surveyed said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Making diversity a true part of company culture, rather than just a statistic, will create an environment for those job candidates to succeed.
Considering today’s landscape, where the supply chain is a hot market and so many companies are looking to hire, recent college graduates and candidates can be more selective about choosing new roles. Surely salary will play a large role in that decision, but so will career development and opportunity within the company.
There are no better advocates than the employees you already have. Applicants want to see an environment that will value their contributions and offer growth opportunities. The Glassdoor survey said that 71% of women looking to understand what diversity and inclusion is really like at a company trust employees most and only 9% trust the company’s website the most.
“Companies must develop and retain women in supply chain management roles. The impact goes far beyond gender equity initiatives. Women bring their unique perspectives and experiences to the ever-changing supply chain landscape, and this diversity increases innovation, agility and profitability,” said Sarah Wilkes, Global Director, Supply Chain Business Development at GEP Worldwide.
Make efforts to retain talent
Attracting top candidates is only half the battle. According to the Gartner report, 54% of respondents said that retaining mid-career women is an increasing challenge. This is because of a lack of opportunity for growth within the company. While the percentage of women overall may have increased since 2020, women in executive-level roles reduced 2%.
The key to retaining talent is actually allowing female employees to earn higher roles. Highlight examples that already exist within the company. We already know they are the best ambassadors for potential new hires. They should also be featured for thought leadership opportunities and customer engagement.
This doesn’t just apply to women in entry-level positions, either. Growth needs to be available at all levels within the company, or women will seek, and find, companies willing to celebrate them.
Find fresh perspectives
Aside from the issue of diversity, the supply chain needs new ideas. The status quo has left us in chaos with clogged ports, too few delivery drivers, and new levels of demand with the holiday shopping season upon us.
The industry as a whole has been under enormous stress for the past 20 months, thanks in part to an exodus of workers and the COVID-19 pandemic, and things have gotten so extreme that the International Chamber of Shipping warns of a “global transport systems collapse.”
Solving this crisis won’t happen by relying on old ideas. We need new perspectives from outside voices and the organizations that have celebrated diversity and gender equality will therefore have a leg up on thinking differently than others.
There may not be a silver bullet to the supply chain woes, but the next time a woman shows up to the meeting with coffee stains from a speedy morning commute, she may have an idea that sparks a larger solution.