More women at the top in supply chain

women at the top in supply chain

A growing number of women are in supply chain leadership roles at the highest level (C-level). This year the figure stands at 19%, up from 15% last year. However, women currently account for 21% of VP-level positions, which is down slightly from 23% last year. The number of women in the total supply chain workforce has also declined, to 39% this year from 41% in 2021. These are the key findings from analyst firm Gartner’s new ‘Women in Supply Chain’ survey.

“Chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) remain committed to gender diversity, but this survey suggests that they will need to double-down on goal setting, leadership inclusion and career-pathing for women,” says Caroline Chumakov, Senior Principal Analyst Supply Chain at Gartner. “Compared to the last year, representation of women in supply chain has improved at the first-line manager/supervisor, senior manager and director levels of the supply chain organization, as well as at the senior-most level: the C-suite.”

The Women in Supply Chain survey was conducted online from 24 February to 28 March 2022 among 116 respondents, mostly from North America. Of these, 85 were end-user organizations with internal supply chains, and 31 were supply chain business services and solutions. Organizations also had to have a minimum of US$100 million in annual revenue.

Global companies lead the way

According to Gartner, there is a correlation between organizational size and goal setting which has improved the representation of women in supply chain. Nearly 50% of mid-sized and large organizations ($100 million to $5 billion in revenue) have no objectives to increase the number of women leaders in their supply chain. However, 83% of the largest, global companies (revenue of more than $5 billion) have a stated objective to improve the representation of women in leadership roles, and 38% have also included formal targets on their management scorecards.

“Global organizations have better pipelines and better representation of women, underrepresented races and ethnicities,” comments Chumakov. “They are also significantly more likely to have these women in a director position than medium-sized or large organizations.”

Beware of complacency

Supply chain leaders who have seen improvements in gender-balanced representation in their companies should beware of becoming complacent, however. 43% of supply chain leaders indicate that the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on the retention and progression of women in their supply chain organizations over the past year. This is a significant increase from the survey in 2021, when only 11% reported a negative impact. In addition, more than half of end-user organizations report that retaining midcareer women is becoming an increasing challenge, with an additional 19% calling it a “significant challenge”.

According to end-user respondents, the top reason for midcareer women leaving is that they lack career or advancement opportunities. This is an increase from last year’s responses. The fastest-climbing response, in second place this year at 43% up from 24% in 2021, is that women are seeking better or more competitive compensation.

Lack of attention for financial implications

Another finding from the survey is that supply chain organizations pay little attention to the financial implications of all this. Only half have a targeted initiative aimed at improving benefit offerings for women or at closing the pay gap. Of the end-user organizations who say it is an objective, 27% report having a specific plan to close the gender pay gap.

“While 14% of end-user organizations stated they’ve already achieved pay equity, it is concerning that 59% of respondents have no action plan to close the gap. In today’s hypercompetitive labour market where women are increasingly seeking out pay increases and ethical employers, these data points reveal a hidden attraction and retention risk,” Chumakov concludes.