Women now fill a quarter of supply chain C-suite roles

women in supply chain

Women have made a strong comeback at nearly every level of supply chain leadership in 2023. Especially good progress has been made at the C-suite and executive levels, with women now holding 26% of CSCO/SVP/EVP/CPO roles. This is an all-time high, up from 19% in 2022. However, frontline roles still lag behind in terms of recruitment and retention, according to new research from Gartner.

Based on responses from 225 supply chain leaders for its annual Women in Supply Chain Survey, Gartner found that women now make up 41% of the supply chain workforce, up from 39% in 2022. However, frontline representation lags behind, with women filling just 31% of these roles.

The survey findings also suggest that a virtuous cycle is possible as more women reach the top leadership positions in their supply chain organizations. “We know that when a woman holds the top supply chain position, this has a positive correlation with more women in leadership and in all roles through that organization,” says Caroline Chumakov, Director Analyst at Gartner.

Frontline challenges remain

Chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) routinely report challenges with attrition at frontline roles in manufacturing and logistics, especially compared to desk-based roles. The ability to attract more women to such roles – and especially to leadership roles in the ranks of physical operations – could form a material competitive advantage.

Providing flexibility was found to be the most effective means of attracting and retaining women in frontline roles, significantly outperforming other initiatives such as fringe benefits, employee engagement programmes and even a focus on pay equity. However, only 41% of supply chain leaders had implemented a workplace flexibility initiative in their organization.

“There remains a mismatch between employers’ fears of chaos and instability as a result of workplace flexibility policies, and the realities of what we see in our research and case studies of successful supply chain organizations. What we see in our research is that flexibility is benefiting both the organization and their female employees,” continues Chumakov.

Race and ethnicity

In addition to baseline data about the number of women at all levels of supply chain roles, Gartner also asked questions about the representation of women from underrepresented races and ethnicities, practices that increase female success in supply chain roles, pay equity and transparency, frontline engagement practices for women in on-site roles and attrition challenges specific to women.

Gartner partnered on the survey with Awesome, a US-based nonprofit focused on advancing women’s supply chain leadership, and Boom!, a UK-based global community created to support and connect women in the supply chain profession.