The area of Supply Chain and logistics is of increasing importance in today’s connected economy and statistics underline the enormous growth potential as we are moving into a global network economyand the new era
This has resulted in an increase in opportunities across the supply chain. A report from Fortune recently highlighted that the US logistics business alone is looking to fill 1.4 million jobs by 2018 including leadership positions.
Women in Supply Chain
Today, the world of supply chain is heavily male dominated. According to a SCM World study, only 5% of top-level supply chain positions at Fortune 500 companies are filled by women,lagging behind figures in other senior executive roles, so here is a real opportunity.
There are some great examples of female leaders, such as Annette K. Clayton who currently serves as Chief Supply Chain Officer at Schneider Electric. Before that she held Executive roles for Global engineering operations, manufacturing, Supply Chain and logistics at Dell, GM and Saturn Corporation.
Another example is Marion von der Hand who started her career in purchasing. Since she was asked to assume the logistics responsibility on top she has had a very successful long-term career as Chief Logistics Officer with the German automotive supplier Leoni, a typical male-dominated industry.
This proves that women can greatly succeed in Supply Chain and serve as role model for others.
But the business space needs more highly qualified women.
According to surveys the motivation for women to work in logistics does not differ much from that of men. Both genders are looking for opportunities to grow in an environment that offers multifunctional job opportunities, may it be related to planning, purchasing, production, transportation, storage and distribution of products into the global market.
So which skills do women bring in?
Females who make their way in this male dominated area describe themselves as a very determined and with a clear perspective of the value they add and of what they want to achieve.
According to studies, such as from the German Logistics Association (Bundesvereinigung Logistik e.V. BVL, 2012) their work style in managing logistical challenges is different than that of men. So is their problem solving approach. This is rated positively, also from a male perspective.
Moreover organizational talent, good networking skills and an understanding of interconnected relations are usually rated highly amongst females. As are communicative skills comprising intercultural environments.
Also, the ability to create positive environments for discussions helps defuse critical situations with customers, suppliers and teams. Combined with the technical and economical expertise this can be a critical success factor to well-manage logistics processes and achieve corporate goals.
What is needed?
Obviously the basic requirement is that more young women have the courage and decide to study industrial engineering or attend an MBA program with a focus on logistics
Dedicated programs both on university level as on business level help raise the interest in logistics, one example is the ‘Women in logistics’ program of the Canadian Logistics Institute or ladies logistics lounges’ at industry events.
Universities with a dedicated logistics campus and specific chairs as well as targeted marketing campaigns will help raise the number of women
University education combined with on the job training phases in supply chain and logistics departments of enterprises and, in different geographies, as offered e.g. by the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany, is regarded inspiring by the students as they provide daily business insights
Enterprises that set up initiatives to develop female talents systematically, including mixed leadership and mentoring and coaching programs with sustainable action plans. An example is the Supply Chain academy from Unilever.
Conditions should be framed to better address female requirements to manage career and family, e.g. flexible work models, job postings and web advertisements that speak to women
Female role models both for business and for leadership positions
There is a major opportunity for women today to choose Supply Chain and logistics for their career path and be successful. The time is better than ever before because of global market growth and the upcoming demographical changes in the global workforce.
Supportive programs are certainly useful. But ultimately, more women should take the conscious decision for a Supply Chain and logistics career and go for it. They will be on the winning side.
I’m looking forward to hear your comments, questions or suggestions. Thank you.
SAP recently founded a global Supply Chain Women network that comprises around 50 female professionals across product management, development, services and customer support to drive exchange on supply chain topics. These women emphasize their focus on this career path. Moving forward the idea is to expand the network externally to SAP’s customer base.
Karin Fent Director of Global Customer Program Supply Chain, R&D, Engineering and Asset Management SAP