By Anna Kazaeva, UK Marketing Manager
Every year we celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March. With many countries making it an official holiday, the meaning of the day has somewhat shifted from celebrating the social awareness of the struggles of women to praising all females for just being a woman. Do not misunderstand me, I for one, believe that no reason is needed to celebrate us women on a daily basis. However it might be interesting to go back to the original concept and, given the nature of our blog, look at women in the supply chain.
With the supply chain industry being traditionally dominated by males, more and more women are entering every year demonstrating that they can do just as good a job. Unfortunately, as encouraging as that is, when looking at facts and figures – particularly Gartner’s Survey Analysis: Women in Supply Chain conducted in 2016 – the key findings that emerge are that as the corporate ladder rises, the percentage of women in leadership positions decreases. According to the study, although women do represent 35% of the industry, only 5% progress and hold high posts such as CSCO’s, EVPs and SVPs.
The representative numbers are a direct reflection of companies failing to outline clear targets as well as the steps and initiatives required to accomplish them. The study carries on highlighting the fact that “nearly 70% of European organisations have no stated goal to increase the number of female leaders in supply chain”. Therein lies a problem. The integral part of the supply chain industry is to plan. From demand forecasting to agreeing with your logistics suppliers, companies plan ahead in order to achieve the desired results. So why should the improvement of women numbers in the supply chain be any different? Furthermore, the companies that do plan and encourage the change in many cases rely on corporate programmes, rather than specific initiatives concentrating on the supply chain.
AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management & Educations), the main contributor in Gartner’s study, is one of the most prominent organisations to have been working on encouraging the development of emerging female leaders and young professionals. The organisation has been continuously working on improving the climate for advancing women within the industry. Through various events AWESOME encourages women to exchange their experiences and knowledge. However disappointing it might be to discover that the general perception of women advancing in supply chain is not as fast as desired, according to Dr. Nancy Nix, AWESOME Executive Director, “the study gives a foundation to work from so we can measure actual progress”.
So what are the next steps that companies need to take in order to encourage the change? As already mentioned, a clear message is important throughout the organisation. However it’s essential that in order for things to work it has to be received at all levels. Gartner advocates stronger recruitment practices with solid guidance programmes in order to increase the number of women at entry levels. It also suggests looking at mid-level recruitment into senior leadership positions and establishing relationships with universities that have at least 40% female participation for undergraduates.
Of course the idea is not to declare war on our male colleagues but to remove possible barriers allowing and encouraging equal participation for both. In today’s competitive market, companies should use every possible advantage in their favour. Encouraging equality and diversity has been already proven in numerous studies to increase organisational performance and enhance a company’s reputation. So while the progress towards the end goal might not be as fast as we hoped, it is important to recognise that changes are taking place.
To access the full study, please visit Gartner’s website: http://www.gartner.com/doc/3302218/survey-analysis-women-supply-chain