Want More Women at the Top? Treat Everyone Better.

Young Woman With Baby Working From Home

Well, it isn’t the only thing that is important, but it is one of several interesting conclusions from recent studies. Here is some interesting research about gender imbalance in consulting organisations, and also a comprehensive McKinsey report that looks at global gender inequality. Both are fascinating in that they do not accept that gender bias is entirely due to discrimination, and in the case of the consulting world, providing better treatment to both men and women will improve the outcomes for women.

The first report is insightful for two reasons, firstly because the firm that commissioned the report rejected the results. Secondly because the results go against the established beliefs that actions need to be centred on women to achieve the desired result.  They had a very high turnover rate, typical for a mid-sized consulting business, which relentlessly separates out the select employees making their way towards partner status. The jobs involve long hours and frequent travel, and there are intense physical and mental demands on the employees. The firm needed to treat everyone better, because they were constantly losing both women and men because of these expectations.

Men, however on average would stick to it longer because they saw fewer other opportunities. Women just left and found better things to do. Even if they did get to the top, this culture more or less precluded them from being mothers, and given that around 80% of women want to be mothers, the company is effectively excluding itself from 40% of the workforce, and in particular the better-educated and with better qualifications part of the workforce (this was American research).

The second report shows how much the exclusion of women from the workplace costs on a global scale. Truly staggering numbers, around $12 trillion per annum. It should also be noted it isn’t a cause and effect basis, some economic growth is necessary to bring women into the workplace. But again, the report notes that the challenges of being mothers, especially in the least developed countries, is what excludes them from the workforce.

The final piece of all of this is that women who want a career and to be mothers face a double bind. The most important decade of their careers coincides with the time that they are most likely to have children. Combined with this, husbands, considered by most women as a pre-requisite to having children, create more work at home than they contribute, primarily because of the career demands placed upon men. If women take advantage of the company and regulatory policies for a career gap, they find it even harder to catch-up, and the path to a senior role becomes much steeper for them This situation is widespread and makes it even harder for women to have a career and be a mother. Work at both home and in the office is more intensive than for her male colleagues.

There are two competing effects that are in play. The consulting company was actively pushing people out of the company, in pretty much equal ratios. The second effect is that there are compelling forces that draw women away from the corporate world. And once out they are unlikely to return. The consulting company rejected the result that one of the drivers to women staying in and advancing in companies, is better treatment for all employees. Despite some compelling evidence that companies who treat their employees better do better on a long-run basis. (As an example, check out the long-term stock-charts for Wal-Mart and Costco which have two very different compensation models and personnel policies.)

This particular company was treating people badly because they wanted internal competition to be intense. They ignored the external forces, in particular motherhood; women can be pulled into alternative roles which are much more attractive than an aggressive corporate culture. The most successful companies will be the ones that keep the best talent, and to do that they are going to have to make their cultures more attractive for everyone, and most importantly keep women engaged to that culture when they are mothers. The flip side is, to do that they will also have to make it more attractive for men who want to be fathers, and can contribute to household work rather than add to it.

Hat-tip to Nick Hixson for pointing me to the Gender & Work report.

Thank you for reading, please do share your thoughts and comments on how we can address this important challenge.

If you want to learn more about the Cosmapec approach to supply chain development, visit us at http://www.cosmapecsupplychainmanagement.com or contact us.

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.

Women at the Top – A New KPI for Supply Chain

Ar Basan zellikler

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.

If you want to learn more about the Cosmapec approach to supply chain development, visit us at http://www.cosmapecsupplychainmanagement.com or contact us

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.

Why Are There So Few Women in Supply Chain?

Supply Chain Management

The real question that is exercising minds is why so few large companies have women supply chain leaders.  There is considerable evidence that women bring skills to managerial roles that are under-represented in men.  And having these skills in the executive team measurably improves corporate performance.  The skills in question are ones which lead to better decision-making, and better problem-solving.  Women are more collaborative, are better at coaching and mentoring, and bring a wider variety of solutions to problems than men acting alone.  These skills are vital in executive teams.  Women have been widely represented at entry levels in manufacturing industry for many years, and an increasing number of women graduates are entering other supply chain functional areas.  The pipeline is not empty, so why do so few make it to executive level?  As supply chain managers, looking for every competitive edge, what we do about this is now a critical success factor.

Beyond manufacturing, some areas of supply chain also have an image problem.  Working on trucks, trains, and ships is generally considered blue-collar men’s work.  There are exceptions, but in general women are not falling over themselves to enter the logistics industry.  Because the workforce is mainly male, the working conditions reflect their inclinations to be less concerned by the comfort of their surroundings.  Badly lit truck stops, ports and warehouses are not somewhere women are going to feel comfortable, or safe.  Women view logistics as having long hours, very poor working conditions, with a high threat of assault or serious injury.  In truth there are fewer men now who want this type of job, and indeed it is getting harder to fill these roles in some advanced economies.

This matters, because supply chain organisations generally promote from within, on the not unreasonable basis that those who have experience of working in the industry manage better than those who do not.  In the parts of the industry where a predominantly male workforce is self-selecting, then the incorporation of women into management roles will be hindered by a relative lack of direct experience.  For these supply chain organisations to have the benefits of having women in leadership roles, they will have to find ways to address this.  But even in areas where women are well represented at entry level, supply chain organisations do not promote women at a comparable rate, if at all.  Given that promoting women to executive positions improves corporate performance, somewhere we are getting it wrong: The skills that women bring to improve performance are not the ones that we are selecting for when making promotion decisions.

This is more than just providing equality of opportunity, women are less likely to enter the field from the outset, partly because of the nature of the work.  There is growing competition elsewhere for their skills, not the least of which is their commitment to family life.  Even when they do enter the supply chain, those skills are not appreciated sufficiently for them to be promoted.  As organisations are managed better with women in executive positions, we need to do more to attract them into the supply chain, work harder to retain them, and promote them with greater frequency.  Supply chains will continue to under-perform until we get this right.

Thank you for reading, please do share your thoughts and comments on how we can address this important challenge.

If you want to learn more about the Cosmapec approach to supply chain development, visit us at http://www.cosmapecsupplychainmanagement.com or contact us

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.

Supply Chain Trends: Collaborate to Compete

Supply chains, except in highly vertically integrated industries, are built from an often complex mix of suppliers of goods and services.  The traditional approach to managing the supplier base is a competitive bidding process to secure the lowest cost for a given specification. This adversarial approach is often known as an ‘arms-length’ relationship with a supplier.  The success of the Toyota Production System however has focused attention on its collaborative relationships with suppliers, and this has been proposed by many business analysts as an essential process to build long-term success.  So what do we mean by collaborative relationships, and is it a trend that you can take advantage of?

Taking a step back, competition is widely regarded as essential to foster innovation and provide choice for the consumers of goods and services.  These innovations can be in service, specification and a multitude of other factors as well as cost.  The ability to switch between suppliers to obtain the best combination of these factors can have significant benefits, especially when measured by input material costs.  So how does a collaborative approach benefit an organisation sufficiently to offset these advantages?

The devil, as always is in the detail.  Toyota does not enter into collaboration with all of their suppliers.  Some automotive parts are readily available to a common specification and are bought and sold much like commodities.  In these instances, there is little apparent value from collaboration and traditional ‘arms-length’ relationships are maintained.  However where the development of the parts requires significant supplier commitment, in terms of capital, know-how, equipment and employees, then collaboration has been shown to have very significant benefits.  For the customer, staying with one supplier can significantly reduce the transactional costs of identifying, developing and trading with a supplier.  Working with a collaborative supplier can avoid the hidden costs of setting up and stabilizing production processes when accepting a part from a new supplier, even if the specification is identical.  Closely co-operating to design parts and processes to ensure seamless integration between the supplier and consumer can drive out waste and reduce costs.

For the supplier, their advantage from longer-term relationships is the trust that the customer values their long-term viability and profitability ahead of short-term gains.  This can be essential when a supplier is making investment decisions that pay back over years rather than months.

Probably the most important element in selecting a supplier, is not deciding how much or how little to collaborate with them.  It is in finding the supplier that knows how to add the most competitive value.   This is very different from competitive bidding, with it’s narrow focus on piece price alone.  The degree of collaboration that develops with a supplier will be determined from how well it has differentiated its value proposition from its competitors, and can continue to do that in the future.  Collaboration is an output of the supplier development process, not the process itself.

If you want to learn more about the Cosmapec approach to supplier management, visit us at http://www.cosmapecsupplychainmanagement.com or contact us