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It will come as no surprise that the supply chain and logistics industries are heavily male-dominated. This is even more true in leadership roles. After years of working at a company entirely run by women, I found myself drawn to a career in logistics. I was mentally prepared to be the only woman in the room; I was ready for it. But what I found is that while the supply chain industry is still heavily male-dominated, women are truly making their mark.

Female executives on the rise within the supply chain

The top-performing supply chain companies know and understand that female business leaders are as capable as their male counterparts. With a growing emphasis on teamwork, collaboration, and multitasking, there is no shortage of skills that women cannot introduce into the supply chain. In fact, more and more women are moving into supply chain and logistics roles, specifically leadership roles, with companies realizing the importance of a diversified workforce.

According to Gartner Inc.’s 2020 Women in Supply Chain Survey among 177 supply chain professionals, 17% of chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) are now women—a 6% increase compared to 2019 and the highest rate since the first edition of the survey in 2016.

“The increase in women executive leaders over the past year is a positive sign, however, the survey showed that women don’t consistently make it through the pipeline,” says Dana Stiffler, vice president analyst, Gartner Supply Chain Practice. “Lack of progress is not something the industry can afford at the moment. Supply chain’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recovery is crucial, with lives and livelihoods at stake. This is a pivotal time for many women in mid-level and senior management positions.”

Progress is made when recruiters look past the ‘old way of doing things’ and start to embrace that a more diversified staff and leadership team brings a new perspective and opportunity for growth within the business. Better employees means a more successful business.

Acknowledging the gender gap

In 2019, male supply-chain professionals earned on average 22.6% more than women, according to an Institute for Supply Management survey that found gender pay disparities across job titles, including C-suite roles. Couple those stats with employment opportunities that required degrees with smaller percentages of women enrolled and it’s easy to see how women have failed to climb the supply chain corporate ladder.

Fast forward to 2021 and women obtain degrees in computer science, engineering, and technology at a rapid pace. According to the US Census Bureau:

  • In 1970, women made up 38% of all U.S. workers and 8% of STEM workers. By 2019, the STEM proportion had increased to 27% and women made up 48% of all workers.
  • Since 1970, women’s representation has increased across all STEM occupations and made significant gains in social science occupations in particular – from 19% in 1970 to 64% in 2019.
  • Women in 2019 also made up nearly half of those in all math (47%) and life and physical science (45%) occupations.

In 2020, buy-in for gender equality seemed like a given, but as we see throughout the supply chain, that’s not always the case. And it’s not just in the supply chain and logistics industries. Salesforce recently published an article addressing gender imbalance across the workforce:

“So first, businesses need to address the imbalance as swiftly as possible — not just to seem ‘politically correct’ but because it makes strategic sense. Over half of global university graduates (60%) are women, which is affecting talent pools worldwide. In addition, women make the majority of consumer buying decisions in a range of sectors. Automobile, computer, real estate, and financial services companies are all seeing a huge feminization of their customer base which is often not well understood or managed.”

The supply chain industry is no different. Though once thought of by some as a ‘male transportation industry,’ the opportunity for female workers and leaders is greater than ever. In fact, a research paper published by Stay Metrics, found that female drivers tend to be more satisfied in most areas with their carriers, feel less bored by their work and feel more fairly compensated and satisfied with their home/work balance. Female drivers also scored significantly higher in pre-turnover thoughts, which indicates they are less likely to leave their present carriers than male drivers.

Changing the norm

Diversity is no longer a ‘nice to have’ –it is imperative to run a successful business. Women in supply chain and logistics roles, especially leadership roles, bring new perspectives and fresh ideas, ultimately affecting your business’s bottom line. We need to start celebrating the growth women have made within the industry and the impact that has had on strategy and planning and the effect on customer satisfaction. At WSI, we celebrate the hard-working women in our company and throughout our industry.  We believe in the value of diversity and inclusion and work with partners that share our values.

Cheers to women in the supply chain during Women’s History Month and every day.

By Mariana Vieth, Sales and Marketing Manager at WSI.

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