I love International Women’s Day. The first time I came across it was in 2003 when living and working in Russia. I came into work as usual on 8 March and was greeted with flowers, chocolates and congratulatory remarks from my male colleagues, and hugs and wishes from my female ones.
I must say it felt good – good to bond with women around the world and good to be recognised for all that we are by our male counterparts in such a generous way. Every year since then on this date, I connect with some of the amazing women around the world that I am lucky enough to know and have worked with to say “hi” and check in.
In our world that is so busy, we often find ourselves focusing too much on “doing” rather than “being”, and we miss the moments which help us re-connect and reflect on how much the world has changed in recent times, and how important diversity in all its shapes and forms is essential in everything we do.
Reflecting on our profession, supply chain, and looking at the changes it is going through, you can see some of the advances being made to bring women into supply chain leadership roles. While we still have a long way to go, it does feel different.
Recently, I was at a SCM World conference and subconsciously noted the split of speakers at the sessions was more balanced to representing our society in general. The third day of the conference was dedicated to women in supply chain, and it was so rewarding to hear conversations taking place about the experiences and learnings of supply chain leaders who just happened to be women. The conversations and panels focused on understanding how people had made it to where they were, rather than what or who they were.
At the same time, we know that as a profession and gender we have much more work to do to encourage and empower women to stay and grow successful careers in supply chain. That elusive self-confidence or self-belief that we hear discussed as one of the key barriers to our success is real when compared to how men approach life and opportunities.
None of it, however, will change if we as women don’t own the accountability to make that change for ourselves and understand why we create the stories in our heads that make us pause before going forward or that make us think we need to act more like men to be successful.
The world of business is starting to embrace and appreciate the importance of emotional IQ in balance with IQ for successful leaders, and that “how” is starting to be as important as “what” in order to create sustainable improvements in performance and delivery.
As women, we have an edge on this if we are able to be comfortable with just being us; bringing our diversity to the table and finding the right business language to express ourselves in. Leadership scholar Warren Bennis said: “Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than IQ or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work. IQ is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.”
Looking through another common lens, I was recently asked at a panel discussion: “Why can’t women have it all?” I love this question when it comes up because I don’t know anyone – male or female – who has it all. “Having it all” means different things to different people, and life is full of choices we make for ourselves every day. When making choices, we go towards one thing and away from another, and so by definition no one has it all.
Perhaps instead of focusing on having it all, we should focus on choosing what works for us and then believing in ourselves to make it happen.
As a final thought, there is a story out there that women are hardest of all on themselves and this is closely followed by being hard on other women.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, wouldn’t it be good to put these stories to bed and connect with all the amazing women around the world that we know, whether in supply chain or not, and congratulate each other on being us? Use these networks to help support the reality we are experiencing, which is that more women are succeeding in supply chain than ever before, and that we as women bring unique gifts to the table, as do men, which are valued and needed.
☛ Sandra MacQuillan is chief supply chain officer at Kimberly-Clark.