In an interview with Fronetics, Don Firth spoke about the state of women in supply chain and logistics. He has some interesting advice and insights to offer about how to cultivate an industry that welcomes women and encourages vital career paths for them. After all, we continue to see reports about how building balanced, diverse teams goes beyond optics or lip service – it’s good business. Firth is a seasoned executive in the field and Argentus commends his investment in closing the gender gap, along with more attention being paid to this issue across the board. Doing so not only benefits female professionals, but greatly bolsters the fortunes of supply chain management and logistics as well.
So what are the key insights and observations about how hiring practices and corporate structures can influence women’s career potential in supply chain? How can a revitalized approach to meeting the talent deficit in this narrow, high demand vertical coincide with the strategic recruitment ventures of both search firms and employers alike in supply chain who are committed to investing in the contributions of women?
Promoting the profession is the first step. The profitability of companies is contingent on supply chain operations, and it can be a neglected opportunity for improvement – and this includes staffing. Supply chain isn’t often a career women or men think about, like medicine or law. But it’s time for that to change. No longer is the traditional model of working one’s way up from the bottom a primary or standard entry method into the industry… and the turn away from labor-intensive blue collar origins means less barriers for women who may have been deterred by that path in the past.
It’s no longer a man’s world. The shift of focus in supply chain away from warehouse to other departments and fields that are more white collar have helped stoke a boost in the field for women joining the ranks, says Firth. It also means more opportunities for great talent to make lateral moves and gain experience, as well as rise to the top. There’s increasingly less bias and reluctance to hire women in business development, technical, creative, and analytical supply chain management and logistics roles now, with an emphasis on the value of client relationship, stakeholder relations, and professional networking skills carrying a premium.
Women see the big picture, and hiring for long-term vision is an organizational investment. “The one key factor they all have is the desire to succeed. Women professionals are able to look at the bigger picture of the supply chain and analyze trade-offs related to different strategies.” For specialty recruiters in this business vertical, the call to action is really engaging women as passive candidates to communicate the career benefits, intellectual challenges, and financial rewards of supply chain management.
Curb prejudice, close the wage gap, create workplaces that are good for everyone. Concerns about work-life balance can sometimes be a factor for women entering the supply chain field, but the onus is on companies to create a more healthy organizational culture that improves the quality of work (and life!) for all of their employees, regardless of gender. That means equal pay for equal work at the same seniority level, integrating flexible work options into corporate policies so that people can be productive on-site and remotely, etc. Employees who are satisfied and engaged are more likely to be loyal over the long term, advocate for your brand, and accomplish great things for your business.
The future is bright when you’re certified. Making the time and financial investment for professional development pursuits can achieve considerable dividends in supply chain career opportunities. Firth recommends that women interested in advancing their careers in supply chain look into business schools that offer supply chain courses as well as professional industry associations that organize formal accreditation. With those additional qualifications, many women will end up starting at the managerial level instead, leading to higher salaries and higher holistic career earning potential. These kind of educational investments also create an edge for both female supply chain professionals as well as their employers: accreditation and ongoing supply chain education options contribute to increased knowledge management and lean innovation, sustainable insights and planning that can boost business profitability, and overarching process improvement for moving innovative products to market.
Are you a woman in supply chain? What was your experience like entering the industry and following an unconventional career path in supply chain management? Do you think the shifts in contemporary supply chain from transactional to strategic have changed how women fit into the larger landscape of the field? We’d love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments!