Women in Supply Chain. Why so few?

The lack of female representation in supply chain and logistics industry means that girls have less role models to look up, and often don't end up pursuing this field.

Gender equality and pay parity at the workplace are a part of almost every company’s culture. However, the commitment to these objectives is still lagging in respectable numbers in the 21st century. This inequality is very apparent in the IT industry too, where women barely make up about a quarter of the workforce. Here we are taking a look at women in supply chain and logistics in particular, where though they are making a serious contribution to the industry, the employment statistics are not comparable to men.

According to a report by Catalyst, the number of women in the workplace has risen to nearly 46.7 per cent. But the roles are still confined to traditional employment of sales, front-office representatives, teachers, nurses and cashiers. The coming of the fourth industrial revolution has not changed this much. Digital technology has revolutionized the work culture with more opportunities, a different demographic, better working hours and flexibility, but sadly, the numbers for women in the tech and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) industry are not encouraging.

There is a huge gender gap between men and women in these fields. The difference is apparent in the employment opportunities, wages, leadership, perception at the workplace, and attitudes.

A gender study by WISE says only 16 per cent of women are IT professionals, and the number has not gone up in the last decade. Another survey by Adeva IT puts the figure at 25 per cent, but what is worrying is that this number is lesser than what it was 30 years ago.

And when we talk about niche specialization like women leaders in supply chain management, the numbers are similarly disappointing. Historically, the logistics and supply chain management industries have been male-dominated, which makes it more difficult for women employees to find a foothold. Women employed in the sector have been occupying financial or human resource roles.

But changes can be seen now.

Reasons for low visibility of women in tech and supply chain business

women in supply chain and logistics

Take any industry meet or conferences, the number of men present always outnumber the women, this is despite women making up almost half of the workforce.

The reasons given for the lack of representation in the logistics and supply chain field are what applies to the whole IT scene.

a)More boys than girls opt for STEM courses.

b) Misconceptions about the kind of roles that exist in the field

c) Toxic work culture, some office spaces promote the bro culture

d) Pay gap

e) An invisible glass ceiling, which many struggle to breakthrough

f) A paucity of role models, mentorship and success stories of women in the middle and senior-level capacities

A research by Harvard Business Review shows that women in the STEM field in the US were 45 per cent more likely to quit their jobs within a year than their male colleagues.

Logistics and supply chain scenario

women in supply chain and logistics

In the logistics supply chain business, there has been a slight improvement in the proportion of women employed. In the leadership role, only 10 per cent of women are in senior management, says Fortune, compared to 30 per cent globally. But changes can be seen now.

The logistics and supply chain business has undergone a sea change with the adoption of technology. The logistics have improved with tracking going digital. There is end-to-end visibility of the product cycle. Technology makes warehousing and transporting that much more efficient and cost-effective with sensors tracking space availability, distance, maneuverability, and much more.

This fusion of tech with logistics has diffused the traditional male dominance and women are now taking over the back-end jobs. Development of applications and tracking tech is attracting more females.

Promoting women in supply chain business

women in supply chain

women in supply chain

Industry organizations such as Women in Logistics have been instrumental in promoting women in the business. Companies are now required to be more diverse and inclusive, which has forced a sea change in hiring policies. Labor laws and political correctness dictate that women are encouraged to apply and be hired.

The cultural values need to be changed; women leaders need to be more visible and act as role models and mentors. Their success stories need to be talked about to attract more women.

Importantly, offering greater flexibility to adjust better to their roles as parents and working women.

A work-life balance is just not a female thing. Companies need to be neutral about this outlook. A family-first attitude will go a long way in improving the participation of women in more diverse careers.

Women, on their part, need to do away with the notion that needs to beat the males at their own game and adopt an aggressive and male persona.

Studies (by Catalyst and Fortune) have shown that women participation in leadership roles leads to better returns on investments. An average 40 per cent higher return in equity and investment is seen.

Innovation improves when a team is diverse.

Women in leadership roles also bring in more customer support. They bring a better understanding of a demographic where women make 85 per cent of consumer decisions.

Not only supply and logistics companies, but employers, in general, need to adopt more diverse, inclusive and equitable recruitment and retention practices to create a dynamic tech workforce.

Anna Domanska
Anna Domanska is an Industry Leaders Magazine author possessing wide-range of knowledge for Business News. She is an avid reader and writer of Business and CEO Magazines and a rigorous follower of Business Leaders.

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