According to a 2017 study completed by Gartner and AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain, Operations, Management & Education), women comprise over 50% of the professional workforce, yet account for only 37% of the supply chain workforce. While this percentage has grown, ever so slightly, from the 35% reported in 2016, the percentage of C-level female executives has doubled between 2016 and 2018 — increasing from 7% to 14%. This is promising news. However, more can be done to attract women to careers within the supply chain realm.
Exploring the Gender Disparity in Supply Chain Careers
As with any industry, individual choices affect people’s choices in career paths. To overgeneralize and state that most women choose “X” merely because they are women would be dismissing the unique preferences and qualifications that every individual possesses. Nevertheless, women who have children still perform the bulk of childcare responsibilities. Despite the fact that dads are reportedly “doing more” in terms of sharing parenting duties, women continue to shoulder more household work than their male partners. Combined with the demands of a traditional, rigid work environment, many women are faced with a choice: reduce their likelihood of career advancement or sacrifice their mental and physical health to climb the corporate ladder.
The supply chain sphere is also in the midst of a diversity transition period. But this can be said about many industries that were previously entrenched in largely white, male-centered workforces. Though slow in some areas of business, a pervasive cultural shift has been occurring throughout U.S. industry in recent years.
To stay ahead of the curve, all sectors must now incorporate what’s referred to as “soft skills,” in which collaboration and communication serve as the fundamentals for engagement. Consumers, in particular, want to be humanized and not just “sold to.” Women are still the primary purchasers of household items within a family context, and the end point of supply chains is, ultimately, the consumer. This is not to say that women are only “engagers and collaborators.” Of course women bring technical and business acumen to the job, as well. But this versatility can set them apart from their male counterparts in some areas of business.
Attracting Women to Supply Chain Jobs
Many women may not be fully aware of the career possibilities offered in the supply chain sector. Creating diversity initiatives within an organization, which may include in-house training and paid internship opportunities, is one avenue for attracting more women to supply chain professions. College campus outreach is another good channel for expanding awareness.
Women who are already in supply chain leadership roles can also help to spread the word by speaking at college campuses, attending job fairs, or developing mentorship programs. And finally, although flexible work schedules aren’t solely of interest to women, the rigidity of the traditional corporate structure tends to hit them the hardest. In today’s 24/7, interconnected world and the increasingly digitalized global supply chain, it’s becoming more and more important to offer remote work and flextime opportunities.
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