Women in supply chain: Where did this topic go?

addtoany linkedin

Today, Wednesday March 8th is international women’s day. To recognize this global celebration I decided to write on women in supply chain. Over the years we have discussed this topic at length on our blog. But to be honest, I haven’t heard much lately and I wonder what has changed. I used to see plenty of industry news articles, webcasts, conference sessions dedicated to the importance of diversity in supply chain, but today’s hot topics are IoT, machine learning, augmented reality and the like. Perhaps progress been made already and it’s no longer the pressing issue it once was? I’m not so sure.

In today’s current environment I believe that it is important to continue to keep women, and diversity, top of mind. Despite it being 2017, we know the gender split is not even in this field. We know the importance and focus of the supply chain function is intensifying in business so you would think that reexamining the current organizational make-up of today’s supply chain would be an important consideration.

In the words of my former colleague Lori Smith, “Ironically, for an industry that is all about balancing supply and demand, there doesn’t appear to be much balance when it comes to its own human resources. It’s time for supply chain organizations to do a reality check and apply some basic planning and course correction initiatives within their own internal organizations.”

On a related note, SCM World recently published a report on Concurrent Planning. In this paper, Matt Davis discusses the importance of removing the functional barriers in supply chain management and addresses how current structural models should connect the data, processes and people. Davis describes the result being democratizing decision-making and how this democratized planning model could shift business processes and supporting organizational structures. With concurrent planning, it will challenge current organizational designs. It will increase the frequency of what-if scenario analysis, connect the humans involved in and impacted by the scenario, and create a broader organizational ability to ask the right questions of the data.

The skills of the future supply planner, and the leader, may have to adapt as well. It seems that by reexamining current operating models, we will see that decisions can no longer just be made hierarchically and without collaboration. The important attributes of a future supply chain worker/leader will be different. Could concurrent planning lead to a more diverse workforce? Or, generally speaking, are the qualities valued in future supply chain talent divided more along generational lines and not necessarily gender? Obviously these are tough questions and I’m not sure the answer. I would love to see a more inclusive world in supply chain, business in general and in everyday life. Perhaps progress is not always linear.

#BeBoldForChange is the International Women’s Day hashtag to call on the masses or call on yourself to help forge a better working world - a more inclusive, gender equal world.

All that said, I do want to do a quick shout out to past 21st Century Supply Chain blog posts on women in supply chain:

  1. The Future Supply Chain Workforce: Can Supply Chain Organizations Balance Their own Demand and Supply? By Lori Smith
  2. The Gender Divide in Supply Chain – 3 Questions That May Show We Are Looking at the Wrong Issue by Trevor Miles
  3. Women of the Supply Chain: Responsibility, Collaboration and Bathroom Lines by Josh Greenbaum, Enterprise Applications Consulting, on his experience at the Kinaxis user conference, Kinexions



- March 08, 2017 at 10:45am
Great writing and interesting subject.

Melissa Clow
- March 09, 2017 at 3:04pm
Thanks Alice!
Dana Stiffler
- March 10, 2017 at 5:44pm
Thanks Melissa for resurrecting the topic of women in supply chain, maybe revisit it every year at IWD time with a rundown of where there has been progress (or not)? Our data says not enough progress to move averages, although there are some bright spots in specific companies. I have seen some fatigue around the topic recently, particularly in supply chain conferences and events. Many (including me in some cases!) have moved on to a broader inclusion and diversity agenda (all good, crucial even, but concerned this allows people to keep talking amongst likeminded folks rather than take specific actions). Once we've admired the problem from all angles, we have to move on to changing practices and behavior, and measuring results. Not as fun as the "discovery and venting" phase. It's awfully tempting to move onto the next shiny thing, feeling that we've checked the box on women in supply chain. This would be a mistake.
Melissa Clow
- March 16, 2017 at 1:14pm
Thanks for your comment Dana and helping to keep this topic alive. I can appreciate that there was some topic fatigue and agree that speaking more broadly about diversity is also very important. Feel free to share future bright spots with us - would love to be able to recognize this. Hopefully I will see you at the next Gartner conference. All the best!

Leave a Reply