Three Payoffs to Closing the Supply Chain Gender Gap


Supply chains will be left in the dust if they don’t move toward a more female workforce.

Industry professionals are greatly underestimating the scope of the current gender gap. This is due in part to the fact that some strides have been made in increasing the female sector of the workforce. Yet such improvements have been relatively minor, and there remains plenty of room for much-needed growth.

Gartner report from 2021 found representation of women in the industry to be lacking. Female workers accounted for 41% of labor within the industry. Moving up the chain of command to management-level positions, the numbers grew smaller. Only 29% of senior managers were women, and 26% of directors. Further up the corporate hierarchy, the percentages were even more shocking: Women made up an abysmal 15% of C-level, executive, and senior executive positions within supply chain companies. And that last number represented a decline from the previous year.

The supply chain, as an industry, is shooting itself in the collective foot by not exploring the female workforce for what it truly is: an underutilized resource with limitless potential.

The “new normal” of the past two years has presented businesses with unique circumstances and challenges. Supply chains need to adapt better to emerging trends and comply with ever-changing government regulations. Closing the gender gap and placing more women in key industry roles can achieve precisely that in several ways. Following are some points to consider.

Women give companies a new outlook. In recent years, supply chain companies were more concerned with budgetary efficiency than corporate agility. Being adaptable didn’t matter if the bottom line looked healthy. Recently, however, that outlook has changed. We’re seeing more companies trend toward flexibility, with less of an emphasis on cost efficiencies.

McKinsey and Company’s 2019 report on “Women in the Workforce” identified a direct positive impact on business financials. The study showed that companies with more than 30% female executives in their workforce were likely to financially outperform companies with less gender diversity.

Brand image can also benefit from blending the female perspective into a company’s overall outlook. A survey from April 2021 found that two-thirds of North American businesses saw significant positive “reputational impacts” just by increasing the diversity of their suppliers.

Contribution and collaboration from multiple perspectives ultimately create the best business outcomes. By increasing the number of women in your workforce, you’ll see more innovative ideas and an openness to adopting technologies and procedures that challenge the legacy-driven mindset. In the process, staying ahead of market trends and technologies becomes an innate part of the corporate culture.

Women have the ideal personality for business. Women are often more willing to take on new challenges, try new things and be open to suggestions and collaboration. They’re not afraid to challenge the status quo.

According to the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS), women are less driven by self-interest, more collaborative, more driven by cooperation, and better at synthesizing the bigger picture to unite buyers and suppliers. In drawing on these natural skills and abilities, women can help companies close more deals, increase profitability, and improve the bottom lines.

Women can help fill the talent gap. COVID-19 and the Great Resignation are just two recent factors that have drastically transformed the business landscape. Companies have been losing some of their best people in droves, and executives stress the difficulty of finding good people in the current job market. The situation is even more serious when unfilled positions require highly technical or skilled labor.

The pandemic has also changed the way people view work. Concerns about work-life balance have come to the fore. Employees want a job that works for them, rather than working for their job. Feeling valued, cared for, and respected becomes more important than salary. It’s vital to balance fair compensation with good working conditions and employee benefits.

To meet these new workplace demands, companies need to reconsider their unique employee value proposition. What are you offering employees to make them work for you over another company? Since women naturally view things holistically, they’re the perfect fit for helping companies recalibrate their culture and realign their goals and mission. By closing the gender gap and hiring women for executive positions, companies can hit those targets. What’s more, companies with women in key positions signal that they’re a great place to work — and that opens up an entirely new pool of talented female workers.

A solution to improving the supply chain industry has been right before our eyes all along. Closing the gender gap and hiring more female workers isn’t a suggestion; it’s a necessity for any company today that wants to succeed in the supply chain industry.

Elizabeth Sinclair is director of marketing at BarTender by Seagull Scientific.

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