Building Gender Diversity in Senior Leadership Roles in Supply Chain.

Why is it important?

It has been proven through research that firms that have more women in senior positions are likely to be more profitable, (McKinsey & Company’s “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters” ). Organisations with a diverse Board respond more positively to innovation and have a greater awareness for social responsibility and inclusion.  The research also shows that a more diverse Board will challenge the organisational norms and adapt quicker to shifting market conditions.

Supply Chain is no different, and women are in a prime position to influence development in this traditionally male dominated sector.  Women bring a different skills set to bear through their tendency to encourage collaboration and an openness in dialogue.

The positive direction of travel set out in Gartner’s Women in Supply Chain Survey 2023, is encouraging. Between 2016 and 2023 there has been a 6%  increase in total numbers of women employed within Supply Chain. Every level from supervisor to VP has shown similar growth over the same period, however it is at SVP and C suite where we see the strongest growth of 12%, indicating that change is taking place.

Representation of Women in Supply Chain.

Source; Gartner 2023 Women in Supply Chain Survey.

Larger Global Organisations are making greater progress in developing a more diverse Supply Chain.  It is estimated that just over 80% of Global Organisations of $5bn+  have stated objectives to improve female leadership and over a third have formal targets to achieve this written into their management scorecards. This positive picture certainly does not mean more cannot be done to improve the diversity in the supply chain at all levels and in all organisations. Smaller businesses need to follow the lead of these larger firms, and be aware of the challenges that prevent growing a more diverse Supply Chain leadership team.

Challenges facing organisations.

The 2023 Gartner survey results help to shed light on some of the issues that are affecting retention and career progression for women in Supply Chain.  Amongst the leading factors are the following;

  • Unconscious bias;  A Pew Research Center survey suggests that 25% of employed women believe they earn less than another person doing the same job. A similar number, 23%, recall being treated as if they are not competent. Further, 16% have experienced repeated, small slights at work (Parker and Funk 2017). As a result of unconscious bias, women are often less recognised than men for their accomplishments (Nix and Stiffler 2016). Recent research suggests that these perceptions have strong bases.
  • Pay gap;  Despite the fact that the pay gap is closing with pay parity for women under the age of 40 achieved, above that age and in more senior roles it still exists. A report by Edwin Lopez published by the Association for Supply Chain Management  cite a pay gap above 50 years old as being as much as 23%.
  • Lack of career opportunities; Mid-career women are leaving their organisations for a number of reasons.  Lack of advancement opportunities is one of the most common causes referred to by women exiting their careers.  
The Solution

There are essentially two routes to take when addressing the issue of improving gender diversity in Supply Chain;  firstly it involves factors the business itself can address and secondly actions the individual can take to improve their own situation.

According to Gartner the bigger firms who have successfully begun to address diversity within Supply Chain have put programmes in place in order to address the following areas;

  • Recruitment strategies
  • Mentoring programs
  • Pay equality
  • Mapping of career paths
  • Diversity, equality and inclusion training
  • Flexibility in terms of working patterns
  • Profile raising events and conferences
  • Professional networking

What the individual can do to help move their organisation forward to an improved state of gender diversity varies enormously according to the size and type of the organisation and the individual involved. Suggested strategies are as follows;

  • Build their own brands
  • Take more control of their careers
  • Build their own networks
  • Participate in mentoring programs 

In spite of research demonstrating that gender diversity in the C Suite has a positive impact on profitability, female representation at Board level remains poor. Supply Chain is addressing this with gradual growth in feeder roles, however both organisations and individuals need to be fully aware of the barriers to change. Both must adopt proactive strategies to ensure a positive result in their organisations.

To find out more on this topic please contact Gavin Campbell at Campbell Reed.