This article discussed the talent gap in supply chain, and one of the conclusions was that as the baby boomers retire, organisations need to do more to train and retain individuals with the skills needed for the future. It does not focus on gender, but clearly the business organisations and policies of the past heavily favoured men getting to the top in supply chain. The current representation of women supply chain executives in large companies is painfully low, and we know now that having women on the executive team improves organisational performance. This adds an additional dimension to the talent gap, we need to be looking at more than the total number of candidates or the breadth and depth of their knowledge and skills. For organisations to be successful, they need women at the apex of the organisation. So how are we going to do it?
The war for talent didn’t end with the financial crisis of 2008. It just reduced the intensity. As the world’s large economies start growing again, that competition is heating up. Supply chain is discouraging entry to the field by women, and is currently excluding almost half of the potential talent pool from ever filling senior positions. And it is that half that have the skills that lead to better problem-solving and decision-making. We understand why it happens, but we seem to not accept that addressing it is important.
From the comments on these recent posts, and discussions with colleagues and women in other professions, here is how they see it. Supply chain jobs are often perceived to be:
- Physically demanding.
- In aggressive all-male environments, with working hours that are long, unpredictable and may include extended periods away from home.
- In locations where women feel vulnerable.
- Managed by leaders that actively or otherwise block women out of the top roles.
- Roles from which men are promoted even if women get better results.
Furthermore they are:
- Inflexible to the needs of family life,
- Poorly paid relative to other professions,
- In some cultures, rife with corruption.
Our challenge is quite clear: We need to organise ourselves better. Physically demanding work can be and increasingly has been mimimised. Machines do most of the grunt work now. Aggressive behavior can and should be eliminated. We need to get creative about how to structure working hours around women’s other commitments and do more to tempt them back into the workforce after starting a family. And if they do come back, commit to fast-tracking them back up to speed and salary parity with their male counterparts. If we are asking people to work in dangerous, dirty or sordid situations we should question why and figure out how to do it differently. Most of all, the one really big thing we can do is get out of their way when making promotion decisions.
Let’s all stop making excuses and start doing something, not least because we will all benefit from doing it. Our customers will get better value, and all our employees become more valuable when working at a successful company. Message to CEO’s and Human Resources EVP’s; your new KPI is a target for the number of women at supply chain executive level. Only numbers above zero are acceptable, and your rewards will increase in line with that number.
Thank you for reading, please do share your thoughts and comments on how we can address this important challenge.
About: Rob Ward has extensive global experience working in supply chain organisations. He co-founded Cosmapec to help companies and executive teams establish, develop and optimise their supply chains.