Pandemic sees women 'stand their ground' in supply chain roles

Women occupy 41% of supply chain jobs and have increased their representation at virtually all leadership levels,  a survey has found.

The Women in Supply Chain Survey 2021, by Gartner and women in supply chain non-profit AWESOME, found the number of women working in the function grew two percentage points from 39% in 2020.

The survey, involving 223 supply chain organisations between February and March 2021 primarily in North America, found the highest percentage of women in the supply chain workforce since the survey began in 2016. A fifth of respondents (19%) came from Europe.

However, while female representation at most leadership levels grew, at the top executive level (chief supply chain officers, CPOs, SVPs and EVPs) the figure fell slightly, from 17% in 2020 to 15% in 2021.

The percentage of women occupying first line supervisory roles grew by two percentage points to 33% in 2021. Rises were also seen in the number of vice presidents and senior directors (21% to 23% year-on-year).

Meanwhile the number of female supply chain directors was up three percentage points to 26% and the number of senior managers up four percentage points to 29%.

Dana Stiffler, vice president analyst at Gartner’s Supply Chain practice, said: “Contrary to other industries, supply chain’s mission criticality during the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many sectors did not reduce their workforce, but rather continued to hire.”

She said many organisations had faced talent shortages, especially in product supply chains.

“This resulted in many women not only standing their ground in supply chain organisations but increasing their representation in organisations,” Stiffler said.

“We also recorded a record number of specific commitments and supply chain-led actions and saw existing programmes starting to pay off.”

More than half (54%) of respondents said retaining mid-career women was an increasing challenge.

The two main reasons for women to have left the function were lack of career opportunities followed by lack of development opportunities.

The number of supply chain organisations with any type of gender diversity goal rose to 73% from 64% in 2020. Of the 29% who stated exactly what their objectives were, 68% said supply chain had a targeted initiative focused on women, up massively from 46% in 2020.

“It’s encouraging to see that the larger share of this jump was for more formal targets and specific goals on management scorecards,” Stiffler said.

“Supply chain leaders who are serious about their gender equality efforts must create tailored leadership development programmes and explore flexible work policies that cater to the needs of mid-career women.”

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