The ”Women in Supply Chain Survey” conducted by AWESOME and Gartner Research is getting industry-wide attention through an article in Supply Chain Management Review (SCMR), titled “Leaders of Change: Women in Supply Chain.” The article stresses the business imperative for advancing women’s leadership in supply chain and highlights the research findings on the need for progress and initiatives companies are adopting to address the gap.
Authors of the article are Dr. Nancy Nix, AWESOME Executive Director, and Dana Stiffler, a vice president in Gartner Research.
“One of the most surprising findings is that although there is a general perception that women are gaining higher levels of leadership in supply chain, the survey found that actual progress is much slower than that perception would suggest,” explained Dr. Nix.
The “Women in Supply Chain Survey” is the first study designed to assess the current status of women leaders in supply chain and develop insights into initiatives that can improve their level of attraction, development, retention and advancement.
For the “Women in Supply Chain” study, Gartner and AWESOME surveyed 125 supply chain professionals in 112 unique enterprises about goals and initiatives to improve attraction, development, retention and advancement of women. The research also collected baseline data on how many women are in front-line manager, senior manager/director, vice president and executive-level roles within supply chain organizations.
Here are some of the key points:
- Women’s leadership improves operational and financial performance.
Women leaders in supply chain can play an important role in understanding customer perspectives and strengthening customer relationships.
Women bring valuable perspectives and diversity of thought to help drive innovation.
Women leaders contribute in multiple ways to a company’s ability to recruit and retain much needed talent.
As in other fields, the proportion of women leaders in supply chain declines with the progression into more senior roles.
Representation of women leaders varies by industry with health care, consumer goods, and retail having relatively higher representation.
Barriers to progress include unconscious biases, lack of access to networking and sponsorships, and issues related to work-life balance.
The research also focuses on the various steps being taken to advance women’s leadership. One of the findings is that “initiatives with specific goals and objectives – in this case recruiting, as well as integrated pipeline and succession planning – are more likely to result in better representation. Women’s networking groups and leadership development programs may be valuable complements to more targeted initiatives, but are resulting in less material change.”
The article makes recommendations regarding female leaders of tomorrow: “The only way ambitious future scenarios come to pass is with formal goals and targets on management scorecards and planned initiatives that support those goals. Second, institutional changes that create a culture of diversity and inclusion and also eliminate (or at least illuminate) unconscious biases must be embraced. Third, policies and practices that are obstacles to the development and advancement of diverse talent must be eliminated or changed.”