Research finds more women in supply chain leadership roles

More women are occupying senior-level positions in the supply chain these days, according to the annual Women in Supply Chain survey, conducted by Gartner, Inc. and business organization AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management, and Education), released earlier this month.

The survey of 116 companies based primarily in North America and Europe found that women continue to ascend to leadership roles across the supply chain, but their overall representation in the field declined over the past year.

According to the survey data, 19% of women occupy C-level positions, up from 15% in 2021, and 34% are first-line managers or supervisors, up from 33% last year. In comparison, 21% of women occupy VP-level roles, down from 23% last year. Overall, women comprise 39% of the total supply chain workforce in 2022, down from 41% last year, according to the survey.

The survey also found that many women are leaving the profession mid-career, primarily due to a lack of advancement opportunities, compensation concerns, and the need for greater flexibility.

“Chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) remain committed to gender diversity, but this survey suggests that they will need to double-down on goal setting, leadership inclusion and career-pathing for women,” Caroline Chumakov, senior principal analyst with Gartner’s Supply Chain practice, said in a press release announcing the study’s findings May 19. “Compared to the last year, representation of women in supply chain has improved at the first-line manager/supervisor, senior manager and director levels of the supply chain organization, as well as at the senior-most level: the C-suite.”

External forces are putting pressure on many organizations when it comes to advancing women. According to the survey, 43% of supply chain leaders said the pandemic has had a negative effect on the retention and progression of women in supply chain organizations over the past year. That’s up considerably compared to 2021, when just 11% reported a negative impact. More than half of end-user organizations surveyed said that retaining mid-career women is a growing challenge, with an additional 19% saying it is a “significant challenge,” according to the survey.

When it comes to why women are leaving, three-quarters of survey respondents cited a lack of advancement opportunities, followed by compensation (43%), a lack of career development (31%), and a lack of flexibility (29%). In addition, the survey also found that many women have left the profession mid-career because of increased domestic work and care responsibilities (23%).

To solve some of these problems, the research emphasizes the need for organizations to be more purposeful when it comes to setting goals to advance women and create a more gender diverse workforce. Some of the largest global companies are already well on their way to doing so, but smaller organizations are lagging. Nearly 50% of medium and large organizations (those with $100 million to $5 billion in revenues) have no objectives to increase the number of women leaders in their supply chain, according to the report. In comparison, 83% of the largest global organizations (those with $5 billion+ in annual revenues) have a stated objective to improve representation of women in leadership, and 38% have incorporated formal targets that appear on management scorecards.

“Global organizations have better pipelines and better representation of women [from] underrepresented races and ethnicities,”  Chumakov said. “They are also significantly more likely to have these women in a director position than medium or large organizations.”


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