How to attract women and millenials into supply chain

Some insist that supply chain has an image problem with young professionals and women, being a bit uncool and technocratic. My concern is that supply chain has virtually no image at all within these groups! A recent visit that our graduate colleague and I made to Hull University to talk about careers in supply chain brought this home – there were only four women in a group of about twenty. This is a shame because modern supply chain is a diverse field offering a real opportunity to make an impact on business.

The pay isn’t bad either. In researching this I found many entry-level jobs as supply chain administrators and coordinators starting in the low to mid-twenties, offering opportunities to advance in 3-5 years into thirties and forties territory. Supply chain and operations heads often earn upwards of £80K. I expect this situation only to improve in the foreseeable future as more boards view supply chain excellence as a way to grow marketshare, profitability and reputation.

If you’re a company trying to recruit supply chain graduates, I would urge you to cast your mind back with empathy about the personas involved. Millennials are attracted to different things than older candidates including your company’s use of modern technology, travel opportunities, fast-track career advancement and a work hard/play hard culture. Are you bigging up these attributes when you write your recruitment adverts?

Babies and responsibilities

If you’re looking to balance your supply chain team with more women, you may need to open your mind. Yes, women do things like have babies (aren’t you lucky?) and tend to have more family responsibilities than men. However in my experience, this usually serves to make them more organised and get tasks completed faster – probably why so many start their careers in demand planning. Women tend to be conscientious about completing tasks because they are measured more on results than potential. When you combine that with having iron-clad deadlines like the school run, you get a very efficient worker who is unlikely to waste time gossiping, looking at cats on social media or answering unimportant e-mails. The women I’ve met in supply chain – including the ones at the top like Reima Oy’s Nina Anttila and Diageo’s Ivanka Janssen – are some of the highest performing in the industry.

And speaking of demand planners, I encourage you to create different roles to fulfil different tasks. In our consulting practice we have run into several situations where clients needed to hire at least two types of planners – one with strong negotiations, communications and team leadership skills and others with technical and analytical skills (with the latter reporting to the former). Offering a range of opportunities at this level is not only beneficial for your team, but will surely attract a more diverse range of candidates.

Future CEO

For the most ambitious candidates dreaming of taking their seat in the boardroom, the role of chief supply chain officer is increasingly a strategic jumping off point to the top job. One only needs to look at noteworthy supply chain leaders who’ve been promoted to CEO including Tim Cook of Apple, Mary Barra of General Motors and Brian Krzanich of Intel. What these people naturally brought to the position was end-to-end thinking.

I was fortunate enough to have stumbled into a rewarding supply chain career by starting out as a resource manager, learning the ropes and being given the opportunity to move into a consulting role. But there are surely many women and young people out there who won’t be so lucky.

Hopefully this has gone some way towards inspiring all supply chain professionals to promote supply chain roles with more creativity and zeal to benefit your organisations and create the next generation of supply chain leaders, or even your future CEO.

Hazel Stansbury is Client Services Consultant at Hughenden Consulting