Women in Supply Chain: Is The Gap Narrowing?

Michelle Jones, Vice President, Alliances, Steelwedge

Michelle Jones, Vice President, Alliances, Steelwedge

By all accounts, the gap between men and women in IT is narrowing. (At least that’s what I hear.) I read article after article stating roles and salaries for women in IT are on more of an equal footing with our male peers than ever before. That is GREAT news and might just be because women are starting in tech earlier and earlier.

This Huffington Post article, aptly entitled, “Will Women Dominate the Tech Field?” states that women outnumber men for the first time in a UC Berkeley Computer Science course. It might seem small, but it could be the start of something very big. If you like pictures—and who doesn’t?—check out this infographic from Women Who Tech to see just how and why the walls are coming down.

I’m personally thrilled to see women excel in technology. Not because we’re women, but because we possess an equally valuable skill set as our male counterparts and have just as much to contribute. The more IT talent there is out there, the faster the advances in areas like cloud computing, enterprise software and supply chain.

So, if the numbers are really trending in the right direction, I have to ask why research shows women only occupy 10 percent of supply chain leadership roles? A January 2014 article in Supply Management cites that figure from an SCM World review of Fortune Global 500 firms. Staggering.

I am a female executive in supply chain, albeit serving that industry versus managing supply chain operations, and I can’t get my arms around that number. I haven’t attended a product demo in recent history that did NOT include female management team member, so I needed to delve into this further.

What I found is interesting and made me feel a little better.

  • Mary Barra, GM’s EVP, Global Product Development & Global Purchasing and Supply Chain topped Fortune’s esteemed “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” list in 2013. Not too shabby!
  • LinkedIn boasts approximately 20 groups dedicated to women in supply chain. I bet that number was much smaller a few years ago.
  • SCM World held an event just last month dedicated to identifying those lessons learned by women who have risen to the top of the supply chain profession featuring a cast of exceptional female supply chain leaders from BP, Starbucks, Mars, Cisco, Colgate-Palmolive and more.  That’s some pretty serious cross-industry female talent guiding impressive, global organizations.

Finally, Supply & Demand Chain Executive came out with its 2014 “Supply Chain Provider Pros to Know” list last week. I was thrilled to make the list along with two of my male colleagues. And, candidly, it was the catalyst for this blog post. I was pleased to see the number of women recognized as individuals who support clients and this community to prepare for supply chain challenges in the year ahead. While not quite as dire as the 10 percent figure above, it’s clear we need more women in the ranks.

What can we do to promote more women in the supply chain profession? Here are my recommendations:

  1. Be a mentor. If you are a woman in technology or supply chain, pay it forward. Mentor a young woman looking to break into the field. There are global, national and local organizations to help facilitate that, or you can simply offer your experience to someone in your network.
  2. Don’t focus on gender, focus on ability. That’s my two cents, and it’s worked for me throughout my career.
  3. Reach out to the experts. There are some fabulous men and women in supply chain who are ready, willing and able to share their knowledge and guidance. Here are links to a few of the folks I admire the most in the field. If you don’t follow them, you should.

Lora Cecere
: Founder of Supply Chain Insights
@lcecere; @SCInsightsLLC and http://supplychaininsights.com/

Peter Bolstorff: CEO & President of Supply Chain Excellence
@SCEsupplychain and http://www.scelimited.com/

Cindy Jutras: President, Mint Jutras
@ERP_cindyjutras and http://www.mintjutras.com/

Seema Phull: Partner, NorthFind Partners

Kevin O’Marah, Chief Content Officer, SCM World
@komarah and http://www.scmworld.com/

Thanks for reading. If you have comments, questions or gripes, please do share them in the comments. I welcome your feedback.