Women now make up more than half of the professional workforce in most developed markets, yet the supply chain and logistics industry continues to be male-dominated. But that’s slowly starting to change, according to Gartner’s 2019 Women in Supply Chain Research.
Conducted in partnership with Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education (AWESOME), the survey reveals how women representation in supply chain and logistics organizations has changed since last year and shares data-backed actions to promote future growth.
“Modest Improvements” for Women in Logistics
Every year since Gartner began this survey in 2016, a record number of supply chain organizations reported specific initiatives and goals to recruit, develop, and promote more women. What has changed is the payoff of these efforts. While women’s representation and participation in the supply chain remained relatively flat in past years, 2019 showed modest improvements across the board.
These improvements included growth in women’s overall participation in the supply chain workforce from 37% to 39%, as well as representation in leadership and management roles. The most notable improvement was at the VP and senior director level, which spiked from 20% in 2018 to 28% in 2019.
Unfortunately, the study did reveal a decrease in women leaders at the executive levels (including CSCOs, EVPs, SVPs, and CPOs). In questioning how concerned we should be, the study authors noted that the decrease can be accounted for in part by women leaders who have retired, been promoted, moved laterally to a different position, or changed careers.
How to Promote Women in Supply Chain Management & Logistics
In addition to reporting on the current state of women in logistics, Gartner’s study unearthed more insight than ever before on the kinds of actions and programs that produce results.
Goals and Formalized Initiatives Matter
Setting and executing goals related to inclusion and diversity can be challenging, but the supply chain and logistics industry is making strides: 59% of supply chain organizations have now set objectives to increase their number of female leaders, compared to just 50% in 2018. What’s more, 85% of those organizations have launched specific initiatives to help them reach their goals.
The real takeaway, though, is that the companies with goals were twice as likely to report improvement. This correlation between goals and improved representation in pipelines may seem intuitive, but it was the first year that the study showed any relationship between the two.
Also of note is that improvement in representation at the supervisor/manager level is more likely when the supply chain itself leads the initiatives rather than the enterprise.
Supply chain organizations that want to promote women leaders, then, should start by defining objectives and spearheading initiatives to achieve them.
Results Stem From Recruiting and Integrated Pipeline Planning
Initiatives matter, but not just any initiatives: The study revealed that the most successful initiatives were those that changed institutional decision-making forums, and specifically recruiting initiatives.
Pooling the data from the past four years provides even more insights, showing that integrated pipeline initiatives — including recruiting, development, sponsorship and mentoring, recognition and rewards, and succession planning — produce superior inclusion and diversity outcomes.
Likewise, when asked about the one action that could help their supply chain organization attract and retain women and promote women into senior leadership positions, most survey participants identified integrated pipeline planning. Companies recognize that pulling women through the pipeline requires orchestrating complex decision forums and activities.
So what can supply chains do? Beginning with recruiting, avoid gendered language in job postings, eliminate gender identifiers from job applications, and increase the number of female interviewers. Then begin reworking the integrated pipeline planning processes, focusing on locating and addressing any hidden biases.
Male Involvement Is Crucial
Where do men fit into the picture of promoting women in logistics? It turns out that their involvement is directly tied to success.
While only about one-third of supply chain organizations actively engage men in their initiatives to promote women leaders, those organizations are more likely to see improvement in gender diversity. The organizations that don’t involve men in their initiatives, on the other hand, are more likely to see either no change or even a decrease in female representation.
As the study authors point out, this correlation makes sense considering that men still hold most leadership positions and 89% of executive leadership positions in supply chain organizations, and thus have most of the power in setting policies and tone.
Any strategy, whether related to promoting women leaders or something else entirely, will have little chance of success if not backed by the organization’s primary decision-makers.
The best way for men to get involved is to serve as advocates for change, both through mentoring and sponsorships and through programs designed to help men promote women, such as Men Advocating for Real Change (MARC) and HeForShe.
“Cautious Optimism” for the Future
2018 survey participants expected to have 30% female representation at the VP level and above by 2023, and they’re already almost there, with a 2019 representation of 28% at those levels. This year, supply chain organizations raised their five-year prediction to 37% representation by 2024.
For the first time ever, the study authors consider the participants’ aspirational prediction to be not only possible, but even likely. With more goal setting, high-impact initiatives, and male leader involvement, supply chain organizations could be well on their way to achieving their 2024 goals.
We created an International Women’s Day video to honor all the women working in supply chain and logistic roles at Hollingsworth. Check it out below. We could not be successful without the women in our organization.