By Hannah Kain, Founder and CEO of ALOM, a supply chain company that responsibly manages the physical, digital, and financial supply chain of its customers around the world. Hannah has been a C200 member since 2011.
The current supply chain boom, coupled with a projected talent shortage of four million supply chain professionals, offers tremendous opportunities in the supply chain, providing career growth and advancement at all levels.
This change in the supply chain presents opportunities for women leaders in particular. Logistics, an important part of the supply chain industry, has long been a male-dominated field run by traditional businesses. However, as supply chains continue to face shortages, delays and bottlenecks, many organizations are adapting their operations to become more agile and resilient.
McKinsey & Company’s report, “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters,” claims that companies with greater gender diversity are more likely to achieve positive financial performance. Women’s diverse perspectives can also help challenge legacy-driven mindsets, embrace innovative automation technologies, and adapt more quickly to changing regulatory mandates and industry trends.
Women are uniquely positioned to build the supply chain organizations of tomorrow. Women supply chain executives at the helm of important organizations such as UPS, Stericycle and the Johnson & Johnson supply chain organization have cultivated a more balanced perspective by leading with empathy, cooperation and collaboration.
No one is successful in the supply chain alone. More than any other discipline, the supply chain is a collaborative sport. Many of the delays and disruptions businesses are currently facing stem exactly from the lack of collaboration. When actors don’t work together, their systems don’t align, causing a profound lack of visibility and efficiency. This has led to underutilization of the already undersized physical port infrastructure: cargo is simply stuck because the next link in the supply chain has no information indicating that the cargo is about to be transported. happen or has already happened.
These challenges have amplified over the past two years as the power in the supplier-customer relationship has shifted. Previously, customers held the balance of power and often took advantage of it by squeezing suppliers on everything from price to terms and dragging out payment far beyond negotiated terms. But as the global impact of the pandemic, social upheaval, natural disasters and geopolitical conflict slowed supply chains, customers who used a more collaborative approach got the first dibs on items that rolled off the shelves. production lines and received the first access to innovations which often takes place at the supplier level.
Although we live in the decade of data, even technology cannot solve supply chain problems without an underlying collaborative flow. More than any other place, supply chains need a more coordinated and (dare I say it?) feminine touch.
Organizations that embrace a more collaborative supplier approach have been proven to be significantly more profitable. McKinsey estimated the effect of effective collaboration at twice the growth rate and twice other important metrics. By encouraging more female leadership to work side-by-side with male supply chain leaders, teams will benefit from greater cooperation in supplier-customer relationships.
Supply chains represent huge, complex and dynamic ecosystems where collaborative thinking is essential. Women intuitively think about the ecosystem. Who should be involved in decisions? How to align everyone? What’s in it for them? For female executives, the challenge and opportunity lies in building a corporate culture that has collaboration at its core.
It has been argued that female leaders persevered and performed better than their male counterparts during the big step down due to their inclusive nature. You simply couldn’t succeed as a leader in the past few years without a strong empathy service. It is also increasingly difficult to attract staff without a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, which is often led by female executives who have encountered their own leadership hurdles.
The ability to attract and retain employees has been critical during the current supply chain talent and labor crisis. Building a culture to support everyone, especially diverse talent, is a major undertaking. I’ve seen success in my own organization with specific actions we’ve put in place, outside of discussions: Modeling the ecosystem early in the process. Discuss goals and results, KPIs and reports for each player. Define success. Regular checks and feedback loops. Treat everyone with respect and integrity. Align everyone around the same goals.
According to a recent survey by Gartner, Inc, women make up 41% of the supply chain workforce in 2021, up from 39% in 2020. While this is good news, the report reveals that the level management has experienced a slight decline. Women have made progress in this industry, but there is still a long way to go.
I am encouraged to see that the number of women graduating in supply chain management is increasing; let’s continue to support these women throughout their professional careers. Yet even with these new graduates, there is still a shortfall that can only be filled by nurturing internal candidates and contributing to training and opportunities in every supply chain organization.
Supply chains have the potential to do so much good: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase sustainability, use diverse suppliers to increase reach to underserved communities, employ minorities and, of course, create significant products. It’s an industry filled with opportunity for those who want to make a difference, especially for female transformative leaders.