Women in supply chain: Where did this topic go?

MelissaClow

International Women's DayToday, Wednesday March 8th is international women’s day. To recognize this global celebration I decided to write on women in supply chain. Over the years we have discussed this topic at length on our blog. But to be honest, I haven’t heard much lately and I wonder what has changed. I used to see plenty of industry news articles, webcasts, conference sessions dedicated to the importance of diversity in supply chain, but today’s hot topics are IoT, machine learning, augmented reality and the like. Perhaps progress been made already and it’s no longer the pressing issue it once was? I’m not so sure.

In today’s current environment I believe that it is important to continue to keep women, and diversity, top of mind. Despite it being 2017, we know the gender split is not even in this field. We know the importance and focus of the supply chain function is intensifying in business so you would think that reexamining the current organizational make-up of today’s supply chain would be an important consideration. In the words of my former colleague Lori Smith, “Ironically, for an industry that is all about balancing supply and demand, there doesn’t appear to be much balance when it comes to its own human resources. It’s time for supply chain organizations to do a reality check and apply some basic planning and course correction initiatives within their own internal organizations.”

On a related note, SCM World recently published a report on Concurrent Planning. In this paper, Matt Davis discusses the importance of removing the functional barriers in supply chain management and addresses how current structural models should connect the data, processes and people. Davis describes the result being democratizing decision-making and how this democratized planning model could shift business processes and supporting organizational structures. With concurrent planning, it will challenge current organizational designs. It will increase the frequency of what-if scenario analysis, connect the humans involved in and impacted by the scenario, and create a broader organizational ability to ask the right questions of the data.

The skills of the future supply planner, and the leader, may have to adapt as well. It seems that by reexamining current operating models, we will see that decisions can no longer just be made hierarchically and without collaboration. The important attributes of a future supply chain worker/leader will be different. Could concurrent planning lead to a more diverse workforce? Or, generally speaking, are the qualities valued in future supply chain talent divided more along generational lines and not necessarily gender? Obviously these are tough questions and I’m not sure the answer. I would love to see a more inclusive world in supply chain, business in general and in everyday life. Perhaps progress is not always linear.

#BeBoldForChange is the International Women’s Day hashtag to call on the masses or call on yourself to help forge a better working world – a more inclusive, gender equal world.

All that said, I do want to do a quick shout out to past 21st Century Supply Chain blog posts on women in supply chain:

  1. The Future Supply Chain Workforce: Can Supply Chain Organizations Balance Their own Demand and Supply? By Lori Smith
  2. The Gender Divide in Supply Chain – 3 Questions That May Show We Are Looking at the Wrong Issue by Trevor Miles
  3. Mentoring, sponsorship and quotas: What are their relative merits in bringing more women into supply chain management? Tune into this webcast recording with top female supply chain leaders: Lora Cecere, Supply Chain Insights, Verda Blythe, Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management, Wisconsin School of Business, Laura Dionne, TriQuint, Elisabeth Kaszas, Amgen Inc., Shellie Molina, First Solar
  4. Women in supply chain: four I admire by Kevin O’Marah. This blog was not published on the 21st Century Supply Chain, but I thought it was worth including. In his post he covers four well known role models in the field: Annette Clayton, President and CEO of Schneider Electric’s North American operations; Beth Ford – Beth is EVP and COO for Land O’Lakes; Maria Lindenberg – Maria is the Chief Procurement Officer for Chevron; Sandra MacQuillan – Sandra is the first ever Chief Supply Chain Officer at Kimberly-Clark Corporation
  5. Women of the Supply Chain: Responsibility, Collaboration and Bathroom Lines by Josh Greenbaum, Enterprise Applications Consulting, on his experience at the Kinaxis user conference, Kinexions

 

MelissaClow

As Kinaxis’ online community manager, Melissa serves as a connector, facilitator, and information resource for the Supply Chain Expert Community. Her blog focuses on what’s happening in the community and supply chain industry news. Melissa loves hearing from Members who are passionate and want to share their stories! Please consider her your navigator to the Supply Chain Expert Community.

More blog posts by Melissa Clow

Discussions

  1. Thanks Melissa for resurrecting the topic of women in supply chain, maybe revisit it every year at IWD time with a rundown of where there has been progress (or not)? Our data says not enough progress to move averages, although there are some bright spots in specific companies. I have seen some fatigue around the topic recently, particularly in supply chain conferences and events. Many (including me in some cases!) have moved on to a broader inclusion and diversity agenda (all good, crucial even, but concerned this allows people to keep talking amongst likeminded folks rather than take specific actions). Once we’ve admired the problem from all angles, we have to move on to changing practices and behavior, and measuring results. Not as fun as the “discovery and venting” phase. It’s awfully tempting to move onto the next shiny thing, feeling that we’ve checked the box on women in supply chain. This would be a mistake.

  2. Thanks for your comment Dana and helping to keep this topic alive. I can appreciate that there was some topic fatigue and agree that speaking more broadly about diversity is also very important. Feel free to share future bright spots with us – would love to be able to recognize this. Hopefully I will see you at the next Gartner conference. All the best!

Leave a Reply