Logistics and supply chain is a male-dominated field in STEM. A survey by Gartner and Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management & Education (AWESOME) found that about 39% of full-time employees in a supply chain role are female, up from 35% in 2016. As Industry Leaders Magazine noted earlier, changes can be seen now but unless we actively prioritize the gender inequality and pay parity, the problem will not solve itself.
Companies that succeed to attract, retain and recognize female talent as a part of their talent management strategies seem to face a fresh set of challenges. What’s interesting to note is that these drawbacks do not result from perception bias. A study by SCM World found that 74% of men think that women’s natural skills differ from men – and that women’s skill sets are highly regarded in the supply chain management (see Figure 1). These skills include multi-tasking, communication, collaboration, and influence.
In the fast-paced world of supply chain management, excelling at these skills would suggest that more women would hold senior level positions. But as we move close to the top of the supply chain organizational chart the disparity becomes increasingly apparent at senior levels. For instance, women account for just 11% of supply chain executives, the Gartner research shows.
How to succeed?
There has been a lot of enthusiasm, commitment and money going into many initiatives to get women into supply chain and logistics, but the results are far from satisfactory.
Young professionals oftentimes refrain from applying to jobs in supply chain management as they are told that the industry is too rough and tough for females. This is not a gender issue; it is a broader societal issue one cannot change singlehandedly. But collectively, employers, educators, government administrators and not-for-profit organizations can do better and give girls and young women more exposure to supply chain management jobs, female role models, and career awareness and planning.
A 2018 study by Microsoft found that girls and young women who know a woman in a STEM profession are more likely to feel empowered when they engage in STEM activities (61 percent) than those who don’t know a woman in a STEM profession (44 percent) (see Figure 2).
Women Leaders in Supply Chain & Logistics
We need more female mentors and role models in supply chain and logistics industry in order to tip the scales in favor of a gender-balanced workforce. With more exposure to positive role models, young professionals could find women that they can relate to and aspire to be.
More importantly, we must show how women leaders can contribute to the success of the company. Here at Industry Leaders Magazine, we celebrate and recognize the success of prominent women leaders in the supply chain industry.
These highly accomplished supply chain executives provide the best sort of role models for girls and young women interested to pursue a career in the supply chain industry.
Managing Director Canada, DHL Global Forwarding
Traditional wisdom tells us to strive for lush titles and management roles to ultimately land a top leadership job. Sadly, this is far from the truth, as we’ve learned from Renata Mihich’s career. Adaptability and resilience is the greatest asset you can possess to accelerate your career growth in any sector. When you’re adaptable and resilient you’re not another cog in the wheel. You become self-sufficient, get to learn a lot, and come out as a complete package who knows things from ground reality to bottom up.
Renata Mihich has an illustrious 20+ year career with DHL where she has held just about every role in the organization, including customer services, sales, and marketing. Today, she calls the shots as the managing director for the organization in Canada. It may have only been five years since she was made MD, but her tenacity for leadership and innovation show she’s more than a match for the traditionally male-dominated supply chain industry.
Senior Vice President Operations, Veolia North America
Maybe you’ve witnessed your boss or a coworker indulge in sexism as they ask you to fetch coffee for everyone in the meeting room, or take up on an administrative task because “women are more organized.” Denise Kopko is here to teach you to exude confidence and command the respect you deserve.
“Early in my career, we had a train derailment and I was called into the vice president's office,” Kopko recalls in an interview with Inbound Logistics. “His feet were up on the desk, his shoes were off, and he asked me to get him a cup of coffee.”
“I decided to stand my ground, and said, "I just spent four years putting myself through college and it wasn't to get you a cup of coffee. If you'd like to discuss the reason I came into the office, let me know, and I'll be glad to talk to you about that."”
Denise Kopko graduated with a degree in logistics and supply chain before it was a popular major. Today she’s the vice president of operations-commercial, supply chain and logistics, with Veolia North America.
Chief Supply Chain and Procurement Officer, Flex
When you travel, you are able to discover not only yourself but also the world you live in. Exploration of other countries gives you an opportunity to see how other cultures execute business or products in your industry. While living in Europe, Lynn Torrel worked with colleagues, customers, and supplies and got an opportunity to learn how to balance global requirements with local needs.
Today, Lynn Torrel has more than 25 years of experience in supply chain and procurement and has proved to be a valuable asset to companies like Avnet United and Velocity where she handled some of their largest strategic customers and supply chain programs globally.
Torrel was appointed to her current role at Flex in September 2019. Under her leadership, Flex is maximizing process efficiencies and productivity and maintaining strong relationships with vendors and distributors.
Regional Vice President, Pilot Freight Services
A Harvard Business School study noted that nearly everyone, regardless of gender, placed a higher value on their families than on their work. Sadly, women are told they’re not the right fit for career advancement opportunities because of the common belief that they are more committed to family than men are. How women react to such biases can also affect their ability to succeed and thrive. Often times they hold themselves back because they don’t know people or are afraid what others might think.
Christine Morgan was nearly passed up for an opportunity to manage a larger station because her new boss assumed the single mother wouldn’t be willing to move. Morgan let him know that if the right opportunity presented itself, she would certainly put her ring in the hat. In six months, she had three opportunities presented to her.
When women are not assertive, they settle for things and end up being unhappy at work. The onus isn’t just on women. The extent to which women in male-dominated sectors thrive partly depends on the kind of opportunities and treatment they receive at work.
In her role as regional vice president, Christine Morgan has successful implemented business growth strategies, and facilitated solutions to enhance new and existing client accounts and grew final mile deliveries.
Do you have a role model that encouraged you to pursue STEM? Keep the conversation going and share your experience with us in a comment below.