How can we attract more females into supply chain management?

Did you know that women account for just 37% of the supply chain workforce? To some, this might appear higher than expected however, the figures for gender-balance in the workplace have remained largely flat for some time. Further to this, research also reveals that females only account for 5% of senior positions. Isn’t it about time businesses begin to make a change to truly impact the gender gap?

As a senior woman working in supply chain management, Debbie Lentz, President of Global Supply Chain at RS Components and the Electrocomponents Group, is familiar with how few females are represented in the sector.

Men in the past typically were sent for laborious roles such as warehouse work or to the docks to shift mechanical equipment and females sat behind desks doing administrative tasks. Fast forward to today, and with 40% of graduates within logistics being female, there is now a strong movement towards a balanced workforce – but the balance is still not strong enough.

Debbie advises:

“A female in a senior position in the supply chain function can influence an organisation’s culture and reputation. In many ways, a diverse workforce is critical to winning the battle on talent and, in today’s competitive environment, is a key differentiator to competitors.” 

Whilst it is encouraging to see an increase in female graduates, more needs to be done to improve the gender imbalance. So how can the supply chain industry attract more female employees?

 

Improving hiring efforts to target females 

Many businesses are beginning to improve their hiring processes and employee benefits to close the talent gap.

A recent HSBC  report into the technology sector revealed that 89% of those surveyed cited flexible working as a motivator to be more productive at work. A positive work-life balance is crucial for employees’ health and wellbeing, regardless of gender, and this balance is particularly hard to achieve for females who are juggling both a successful career and motherhood.

Debbie continues:

“Flexibility is not as simple as working earlier or finishing work later. It’s about putting your employees’ needs at the forefront – working around schedules, sick children, and school plays. As long as the work is being produced, employees should not be penalised for trying to have both a career and a family.” 

 

Nurturing from within the workforce 

A survey by Harvard Business Review reveals that of the 57 female CEOs interviewed, two-thirds said they didn’t realise they had the potential to be CEO until a colleague told them they could.

Debbie comments:

“Your best female leader could be just a promotion away. Women within your organisation must be

receiving the right career development in order to progress. By investing in a stronger internal mentoring and support programme you could spark long-term goals amongst the female employees you already have.” 

“One of the most rewarding parts of being a mentor is watching an individual grow and achieve the career success they’d always dreamed of.”

 

Education from a young age 

As the complexity within the supply chain increases – and with advancements in technology and data – the skills gap widens.

To remain viable, it’s important that organisations seek and obtain more diverse talent. Tellingly, research has found that companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19% higher revenue than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity.

Commenting on the topic, Debbie explains:

“Employing a diverse talent encourages different perspectives and experiences into an organisation. It’s important to make your employees feel supported and like they are a part of something – a key trait for any organisation in order to improve its performance.”

Looking to the future, one way in which businesses can improve the gender gap is by focusing their efforts on educating the younger generation; this can be through university programmes or inviting a school to come and see their place of work for an informative and motivational school trip. There are also initiatives – such as The Big Bang Fair at the NEC for aspiring young scientists and engineering students – which are actively introducing young people to the STEM industry and showing that these industries have career options for both boys and girls. However, we need to see more of these events arise.

“We aim to inspire more and more school children, particularly girls, toward choosing STEM

subjects and pursuing a career in engineering, with the end goal of reducing the skills gap we have in the industry. For example, we have a proactive STEM programme.”

 

Raising gender imbalance awareness 

Full supply chain visibility is in the interest of every business and ultimately the main goal to remain viable. However, this aim shouldn’t stop at the logistics of an organisation but should also carry down into the business’s workforce. If you attend any logistics conference you will find a demographic that is heavily male-dominated, and the majority of speakers are senior-level male executives. A huge challenge to attracting more women into the industry is the poor levels of visibility of the females that are already working in the sector.

Speaking on the matter, Debbie adds:

“Women that are already working within the supply chain are crucial players in closing the gender gap. It’s important that employers are encouraging their female employees to have a presence at conferences and events to network, and that employers are even encouraged to speak at these events to increase awareness.”  

This increase in awareness is not only beneficial to the individual attending said event but also for the company they are representing. This is also a great way for females to share their experiences and inspire individuals into the sector.

The supply chain provides an abundance of career opportunities as there are very few aspects of a business that the supply chain doesn’t touch.

Whilst statistics are showing an increase in females within the workforce, there is still so much more we can do to remove the stigma. Businesses should be helping to support and fuel their female employees progress in the industry. It’s time to do your part to make a change.

 

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