224222385 Fizkes | Dreamstime
224222385 Fizkes Dreamstime

Women are Advancing in Supply Chain Careers

July 11, 2023
A new Gartner study finds that 26% of all supply chain leadership roles are now filled by women.

Download this article in PDF format.

There are more women than ever in supply chain leadership positions right now, according to a new Gartner, Inc., survey. In fact, the firm says women are making a “strong comeback” in the supply chain workforce this year and posting gains at nearly every level of leadership.

The advances were particularly prominent at the C-Suite and executive level, where 26% of chief supply chain officer (CSCO), senior VP, executive VP and chief procurement officer (CPO) roles are now held by women – an all-time high and up from 19% last year.

Gartner’s eighth annual Women in Supply Chain Survey was conducted from February to March of 2023 and surveyed 225 supply chain leaders. The survey showed that women now make up 41% of the supply chain workforce, up from 39% in 2022.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see women make gains at the senior executive level, as we know that when a woman holds the top supply chain position this has a positive correlation with more women in leadership and in all roles through that organization,” Caroline Chumakov, director analyst in the Gartner Supply Chain Practice, said in a press release.

Frontline Representation Lags

According to the survey, frontline representation continues to lag, with women filling just 31% of these roles. Gartner says CSCOs “routinely report challenges with attrition broadly at frontline roles in manufacturing and logistics,” and particularly when compared to roles at desk-based jobs.

“The ability to attract more women to frontline roles – and especially in leadership roles in the physical operations ranks – could form a material competitive advantage over those who are unable to do so,” the firm points out.

Providing flexibility was the most effective initiative in attracting and retaining women to frontline roles, significantly outperforming other areas such as benefits, employee engagement programs and even a focus on pay equity. However, just 41% of supply chain leaders had implemented an initiative dedicated to workplace flexibility at their organizations.

“There remains a mismatch between employers’ fears of chaos and instability as a result of workplace flexibility policies and the realities of what we see in our research and case studies of successful supply chain organizations,” Chumakov said. “What we see in our research is that flexibility is benefiting both the organization and their female employees.”

A Virtuous Cycle of Success

More companies have been focused on gender equality over the last three years, during which time a number of supply chain-owned initiatives are clearly having a “measurably positive impact on women in supply chain,” Gartner reports.

The data suggests a “virtuous cycle is possible” as more women attain top supply chain leadership roles. For example, the survey found that having women in an organization’s senior-most role leads to more women in leadership across the entire organization.

“This connection between female leaders and the effect on women in the workforce has positive implications for how supply chain leaders can better design their efforts to improve representation of women in supply chain,” Chumakov said.

5 Steps to Attract More Women in Supply Chain

As a starting point for attracting more women to supply chain leadership positions, Deloitte suggests using these five strategies:

  1. Intentionally upscaling resources that pull women under the umbrella, train them up and re-introduce them into the organization.
  2. Instituting more mentorship and sponsorship programs. Advocating for women in supply chain and manufacturing roles early on can drive the leadership and technical skills to help women climb the corporate ladder.
  3. Focusing on supply chain diversity as a component of the supply chain of the future.
  4. Conducting academic partnerships, roundtables and other initiatives with universities. Over the past two years, the percentage of women who believe the school system “encourages” female students to pursue manufacturing careers has more than doubled, from 12% to 29%, according to Deloitte.
  5. Driving recruitment through the media by having a variety of voices at conferences and events who speak on the topic of supply chain. “Industry ambassadors [can] partner with other leaders using these opportunities to reap benefits in education and at industry events,” Deloitte adds.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Supply Chain Connect, create an account today!