How businesses can support (and retain) women in supply chain

Retaining talent in 2022 has been a significant problem for logistics and supply chains. A lack of workers is causing disruption, increasing salaries means higher operating costs and attracting new employees is resource-intensive. One unexplored factor that organisations are losing out on? Supporting midcareer women in supply chains.


The recent labour shortages and frustrations have had logistics management teams constantly increasing wages as means of attracting new workers. However, retaining and attracting experienced women in logistics through career growth could be far more impactful. A recent research study indicates that supply chains where women are included are more collaborative and more productive. 

 

Why midcareer women leave jobs in supply chain

According to a 2021 Gartner Report, midcareer women have proven difficult to retain despite an overall increase in the number of women in supply chain and logistics careers. While there could be a great number of reasons, most women in the survey (68%) cited a lack of career opportunities as the primary cause. In fact, although supply chain careers had a net increase of women, leadership teams saw a percentage decrease. 


In addition to a dearth of career opportunities, the second most reported factor for women leaving supply chain was a lack of development opportunities. Nearly twice as many responses included development opportunities as did compensation (34% vs 18%).

 

Creating gender-diverse supply chain leadership

Companies like Deloitte have created inclusive initiatives that facilitate more diverse individuals to climb higher within leadership. Part of these types of programmes is to make sure that all supply chain progression paths are clear and structured. Where there aren’t available roles, creating alternative types of leadership could be a great way to start. This could include empowering women to step into coaching and mentoring roles or giving them opportunities to develop their professional profiles through public speaking and participating in panels.


We also spoke with Shereen El Zarkani, Head of Maersk Growth, who shared her thoughts on creating leadership opportunities for women in supply chain. She says, “Leaders in the industry can help women grow by focused and systematic approach on equity and inclusion. And the first step is to engage: ask and listen to the different needs in the organisation. This can range from flexible working hours, special projects for skill development, return to work policy post-maternity leave, mentoring, etc. The point is that 'one size fits all' won't cut it and it’s ok to differentiate- that is the essence of equity.”

 

Investing in development & education

An underinvestment into existing talent leads many women to explore new career paths. Organisations need to ensure that women have the knowledge, skills and tools to succeed in supply chain careers. Creating tailored development plans for all team members, but especially women, can significantly increase job enjoyment and longevity. Where new roles and advancement opportunities may not always be available, finding ways to help women upskill in new capabilities can keep them engaged in their existing role.

What can development opportunities look like?

For some, development and education might follow a traditional route of professional qualifications or a business degree. For others, it might mean finding a way to pivot toward a more digitally focused role or finding a mentor. There is no black and white answer because development needs to happen on an individual basis. But aligning that development with the future needs of the organisation is crucial.


Just because the standard 'profile' on the senior bench looks a certain way, it doesn't mean that's the only way to get to the top. I am a firm believer that the best version of oneself is the most authentic one.

— Shereen El Zarkani, Head of Maersk Growth

 

Enabling career longevity with digital transformation

Supply chains and logistics operations are primed for digital transformation. Likely, management and leadership teams have heralded its coming and some may have even started implementing transformation projects. The complexity of the modern supply chain and the flood of disconnected data points means embracing technology is vital. But it’s not just good for optimisation.


Advancements in data, AI and automation enable teams to shift from pure execution to a more strategic and data-driven approach to logistics. This means that businesses can create new types of careers, leadership positions and strategy-focused roles. These new openings could be a long-term way to give midcareer women options for taking their supply chain careers further.


Read more: AI in Logistics - The secret behind a resilient business strategy

 

Ultimately, as supply chains adapt and shift through digital transformation and sustainability initiatives, the way businesses operate will need to change. And supporting the careers of women in your logistics teams can be a tremendous driving force for more productive and collaborative teams. Building more opportunities to bring women into leadership, providing them with ways to grow and using technology to expand what it means to be a part of supply chains are key to retaining these women.