A Diverse Range of Supply Chain Experiences

The face of the supply chain is changing, with more diversity than ever before. Yet people of color are still only 30% of the workforce. Here, six professionals in the field share their varied experiences, what helped them succeed, and how the industry can improve its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Supply chains, long dominated by white males, are slowly becoming more diverse, particularly in the areas of gender and race/ethnicity. As covered in the previous issue of MHI Solutions, women now represent about 40% of the total supply chain workforce, according to research from Gartner. The firm also recently released the findings of its 2021 Supply Chain Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Survey, finding that people of color currently comprise 30% of the full-time supply chain workforce, but remain scarcely represented in leadership roles: vice presidents (9%), directors (11%), senior managers (11%), managers/supervisors (17%).

Further, in a separate study, Gartner found that employees increasingly expect their employers to take a public stand on social and cultural issues—including a commitment to greater internal DEI—whether they directly impact the business (87%) or not (74%). Many more companies did so in 2020, as America’s long history of racial injustices and gender inequality prompted not just nationwide demonstrations, but awareness in the workplace.

“Current and prospective employees want to see action in the form of real investment—in terms of budget, resources or internal changes,” noted Dana Stiffler, VP analyst at Gartner and lead researcher of the DEI study. “They also want transparency regarding how the organization arrived at the chosen actions and its progress against those actions.”

Gartner’s DEI Survey found that more than 50% of supply chains have a stated objective to improve DEI. Of those, 23% include formal DEI targets and goals on management scorecards. The larger the company, the more likely it is to have a DEI initiative; only 24% of small business supply chains do.

The benefits of a more diverse workforce are numerous. They include an enhanced ability to address both challenges and opportunities through a variety of perspectives; better alignment with a customer base; and innovation through the collaboration of multiple viewpoints. Plus, a deeper talent pool: Recruiting from a more diverse racial/ethnic and gender base is one approach to addressing the ongoing talent shortage the industry has struggled with for years.

With people of color currently representing just 30% of the supply chain workforce, there is obvious potential for organizations to expand their ranks while simultaneously growing their workforce diversity. As for how to best achieve that goal, we talked with six supply chain professionals (who also happen to be people of color) about their career experiences, their mentors and supporters, and ways the industry can attract even more diversity to the field.

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