Women make up 17% of chief supply chain officers, an increase of six percentage points compared to 2019, according to a survey.
The survey, conducted by Gartner, found the representation of women in the total supply chain workforce in 2020 remained unchanged at 39%.
The number of women in supply chain leadership roles was proportionally lower at the vice president and senior director levels, falling from 28% in 2019 to 21% in 2020.
Gartner surveyed 177 firms in North America and found the representation of women at VP level in consumer goods and retail supply chains (25%) was nearly twice that of industrial organisations (13%).
The survey found one of the main barriers to women being hired for senior supply chain roles at industrial firms was women being less likely to hold a science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) degree.
According to the survey, 55% of industrial organisations preferred a STEM degree for senior hires, compared to 39% of consumer firms.
Dana Stiffler, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice, added: “Another notable difference between industrial and consumer/retail supply chain organisations is goal setting. Consumer and retail organisations were more than twice as likely to have formal targets and specific goals in management scorecards for gender diversity.”
In 2020, 63% of respondents said they had active goals, objectives or initiatives to recruit women and build pipelines, but Stiffler added it can take years for this activity to strengthen pipelines.
“The increase in women executive leaders over the past year is a positive sign, however the survey showed that women don’t consistently make it through the pipeline,” said Stiffler.
“Lack of progress is not something the industry can afford at the moment. Supply chain’s role in the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent recovery is crucial, with lives and livelihoods at stake. This is a pivotal time for many women in mid level and senior management positions.”
Angela Qu, CPO at Lufthansa, told SM the function needed more role models, adding “more female leadership in procurement and supply chain management would inspire other women to join”.
Qu said there should be more public communication about procurement and supply chain and why it is a key business function, in order to attract talent.
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