Women in the Supply Chain Are Embracing Its Opportunities
By Maria Leggett, MHI Director of Education
In April, Gartner released its fourth annual report on women in supply chain, produced with Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education (AWESOME). Among its findings, more supply chain organizations have been setting goals and launching initiatives specifically to increase gender diversity among their ranks and at all levels. Efforts include a shift to new policies and practices that grow the number of women employed in the field, and the promotion of more women to leadership positions.
Those activities seem to be working to a degree, with the report noting that the percentage of women working in supply chains is now 39%, and a steady increase in the number of female front-line managers and supervisors, senior managers, directors and vice presidents. (The report can be downloaded for free at www.awesomeleaders.org/research.)
Likewise, as our industry has increasingly recognized the benefits that gender diversity brings to business—including increased innovation, greater competitiveness in the marketplace and overall operational success—organizations like MHI have responded with a variety of programming and resources dedicated to helping women find and grow within supply chain careers.
At MHI, we’ve been co-producing two events focused on gender diversity in our industry with the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA): the Women in Supply Chain Industry Forum, held annually during ProMat or MODEX and featuring an afternoon of education, discussion and networking for women in supply chain careers, and the Women in Industry Conference, presented yearly in early November in the Chicago area and featuring a full day of speakers and discussions on how to maximize leadership and communication skills, as well as networking with other women in the field.
At the ProMat 2019 Women in Supply Chain Industry Forum, keynote speaker and author Colette Carlson presented “Three Truths Female Leaders Need to Know.” She explained to participants that part of a woman establishing her executive presence is expanding her reach within her career.
“Keeping your head down and doing your work isn’t enough,” she said. “In order to be promoted into leadership positions, women have to be seen as leadership material. Your ability to grow your career is determined by how well others trust your competence, your character, your ability to communicate and connect. That means those in a position to advance your career need to see you utilizing your skills and abilities. The only way to make that happen is through strategically expanding and cultivating your network of connections, both within and outside of your organization.”
Targeting key influencers
Carlson notes that women—by virtue of their natural propensity to build and maintain relationships—often find that they have a large network, but that it lacks the influential individuals who can support their professional goals. “In that instance, I suggest creating a strategic connection ‘map,’ examining who’s currently in your network, including those you know well, worked for previously, shared a project with or served with on a committee,” she said.
“Then, determine whom you may have met but haven’t built a relationship with yet,” she added. “Further, who do you want to know that someone within your network may associate with and could create an introduction? Of all these individuals, which ones can open doors for you, get your ideas heard or hire you? By strategically building connections with influential individuals and participating on high-profile projects, you become both visible and memorable.”