Lack of ethnic diversity in SCM roles 'a systemic issue'

14 April 2021

The number of people of colour (POC) in supply chain roles rapidly declines the higher you advance up the corporate ladder, according to a report.

In the report, a joint survey by Gartner and the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) found while the average supply chain workforce had 30% POC, diversity dropped significantly in senior positions.

It found that POC – defined as Asian, Black/African/Afro-Caribbean, Hispanic/ Latinx, Native American/First Nations, and Pacific Islander – made up 17% of managers/supervisors, 11% at senior manager and director levels, and 9% of vice presidents in the US, Canada, and Europe.

Abe Eshkenazi, CEO at ASCM, said: “This is a systemic issue that goes back to the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s that unfortunately isn’t unique to supply chain. As supply chain emerged as a function, many of its management and employees migrated from other functions such as finance and engineering, which due to their own narrow talent pipelines were primarily staffed with white males.

“As in many fields, more progress is needed. Supply chain organisations can lead the way by creating an environment where diverse talent is valued, included and developed.”

He added that “building a diverse workforce is essential, not aspirational, as diversity of thought, influence and input — particularly from women and people of colour — is crucial to today’s global supply chains.”

The year 2020 was seen to be a turning point as social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter, put pressure on companies to do more, said the report. 

As a result, supply chain organisations have been addressing the lack of diversity in talent pools, with 62% looking at ways to boost POC representation through recruitment strategies, and 23% already having formal targeted initiatives.

Dana Stiffler, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice, said: “The most successful initiatives are those that are integrated in the recruiting and pipeline planning process. In recruiting, that means diverse interview panels, diversity referral programmes, summer internship programs for diverse students, blind resumé reviews and diverse campus recruiting. 

“In integrated pipeline planning, it means redesigning recruiting, development, performance management, and succession planning to reduce bias.” 

There is a disparity of action to improve diversity efforts between large and small businesses, with only a quarter of SMEs (24%) including diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as an objective. 

Stiffler said: “In a global organisation, it’s more likely they’ll have a DEI officer or an HR leader that owns and cascades the DEI strategy. Where this is not happening fast enough, some chief supply chain officers have designed and launched their own initiatives.”

The survey involved 298 supply chain organisations, primarily in the US, Canada and Europe, between November and December 2020.

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