Diversity as a driver of innovation


Melanie Salter, Director of Supply Chain Research at Boom!, mapped the benefits of diversity in teams for this global community of women in supply chain. What emerged? Especially when it comes to innovation, companies that pay little attention to this issue risk missing the boat, she said at inNOWvate.

By Mirjam Hulsebos

There are still more men than women working in the supply chain field. Although much has improved over the past 20 years, the ratio of women in senior positions still barely exceeds a quarter, while in the workplace, the ratio of women is about a third. ‘And when you look at women of colour, it’s even more shocking,’ she said.

Salter (pictured) is a strong advocate for diversity, and has a broad outlook. ‘It’s gender, but also race and religion. I really believe that the more diverse a team is and the more perspectives you have, the better solutions you come up with.’

The latter is not just gut instinct, but is backed up by research. She cited several scientific sources showing that companies with diverse teams perform better in various areas. She mentioned productivity and efficiency (partly due to lower absenteeism and higher workload), customer perception, decision-making, financial results, sustainability goals (climate, environmental and social) and innovation. ‘There is simply a business case for more diverse teams. And the great thing is that you don’t have to change that much, just how you think.’

Senior management

The biggest barrier is senior management who still see diversity, equality, and inclusion projects as a hobby and a waste of time. Consequently, they are too busy to engage in such things and often undermine the initiatives, consciously or unconsciously. Salter believes that precisely this unconscious behaviour is problematic. ‘Men don’t realize that women who do make a career in supply chain have had to adapt their entire working lives. They cannot be who they really are but are always playing a role. Behaving as they are expected to.’

Another barrier is the lack of role models. Salter therefore responded enthusiastically to a comment from a lady in the room who said that in her company, young women can be coached by more experienced female colleagues. ‘That’s a really great way to give them confidence and expand their network.’

What also helps are flexible working hours, especially for women caring for children or their parents. ‘Because let’s face it: we often do think that the tasks at home are fairly divided, but care still falls largely on women,’ Salter commented.


Finally, she gave some tips for recruiters: ask for skills and not qualifications. ‘Because women are very honest. If ten qualifications are asked for and they don’t have one of them, they’ll think: I’m not suitable for this job. Whereas men already respond even if they only meet three of the qualifications.’

As part of inNOWvate, she reiterated the importance of diversity for innovation. ‘It has been scientifically researched: the greater the diversity in a company, the more innovation there is and the greater the share of sales that is achieved from new products or services.’