'Disappointing' lack of diversity in supply chain management

8 June 2017

The supply chain profession is largely white male and lacking in ethnic and gender diversity, according to a report. 

A study by consultancy Supply Chain Insights found 57% of supply chain managers were caucasian and only 28% were female.

“Sadly, diversity in the profession remains an issue. I foolishly thought we had made more progress,” said report author Lora Cecere, founder of Supply Chain Insights.

Cecere obtained 386 responses largely through contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platforms. Respondents included people working in or studying the supply chain industry.

The largest ethnic grouping in the survey was Asian/ Pacific islanders, who accounted for 23% of responses. Only 7% of respondents identified themselves as Hispanics or Latinos, and only 5% as African-American or black. Another 5% classified themselves as “other” and another 5% preferred not to say.

In terms of age, members of generation X, those born between 1965 and 1984, made up 51% of responses, while millennials, born between 1985 and 2004, accounted for 29%.

Baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1964, accounted for 20% and those born earlier than 1945 made up 0.3%.

Cecere expressed the fear that as she had largely recruited the sample base from her contacts on LinkedIn, women and non-caucasians could have been over-represented in responses and the real picture of ethnic and gender diversity in the profession could be worse than the survey indicated.

This would appear to support a study released in March that featured a ranking of occupations by level of ethnic diversity. It placed senior procurement professionals in the bottom ten. CIPS described these results as ‘disappointing’ and said more needed to be done otherwise the profession risked becoming ‘irrelevant’.

In the Supply Chain Insights study 70% of supply chain employees were satisfied with their careers, but the report also identified notable differences by generation in terms of job satisfaction and what matters in their careers. 

Generation X and millennials sought greater work-life balance, fewer hours and greater flexibility to work from home compared to baby boomers.

Millennials sought more coaching and on-the-job training, suggesting an opportunity for employers seeking to recruit top talent. 

Supply chain professionals of both genders had similar goals and aspirations, though women were more likely to be concerned about working from home, flexible time and commuting considerations.

Cecere said the study indicated that supply chain management can be just as appealing and satisfying to women as men but the profession was failing to educate young women about it as a career.

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