When I first joined the workforce I was given a dongle and used the hotel room phone to access my email at speeds that wouldn’t even power Slack today. I tried to explain this to my 11-year-old and she looked at me like I had a cat on my head. My point wasn’t so much about dial-up Internet, but that I’ve seen a lot since I joined the software industry 20 years ago. I’ve picked up and moved for jobs, both before and after starting a family, worked remotely and in an office. I’ve worked for large enterprises, mid-size companies, and startups. When I was promoted from technical support at my first job, I was the third female to join our team of 100 global consultants.
I’ve spent the last several years focusing on supply chain and logistics and have seen an evolution in both technology and what the workforce looks like for women.
Here’s how organizations within the supply chain ecosystem can take progressive actions to help bridge the gender gap while providing an equitable workplace across all roles and levels for women and working moms.
My career has spanned several industries in various roles from support, consulting, and product management to go-to-market strategy, product marketing, and partnerships. I’ve had bosses that had my back and others who seemed more apt to stab me in it. I’ve seen the belly of the corporate beast, but also been blessed with support from leadership that made a profound impact on my career.
I discussed the importance of having managerial support with a former colleague and manager recently. We have both worked on large go-to-market activities where we needed the organization to rally behind new ideas and marketing programs.
“If you are working towards a significant change to an internal business process such as implementing a new best practice,” Lori Harner, AVP of Product Marketing at E2open commented, “you need to have executive support from conception to fruition, to not only support the training aspect, but also the roll-out, implementation and execution.”
I’ve worked for some amazing bosses, both female and male, who raised my self-confidence, empowered me, and helped uncover skills that I didn’t know I had or was too timid to use. Their support was critical when I moved into industries and roles that were dominantly held by men. We must not undervalue the importance of managers supporting and advocating for their employees.
I’m fortunate to have started working in supply chain, logistics, and LogTech before they became hot industries. You know, before we ran out of toilet paper. There were far less women in the industry at that time, but I never felt like I was a token hire.
I was recruited by a large logistics provider, made it through a complicated interview process, and scored high on required tests. I was one of few women who were direct reports to a C-level executive who had high expectations both of himself and his team. My product team and I worked long hours against tight deadlines and I learned a lot about logistics, brokerages, and freight forwarders just by working shoulder to shoulder with people from the industry who were 100% dedicated to their customers’ success. There is no replacement for getting your hands dirty if you want to learn a new industry.
Attracting and Retaining Top Talent
Make sure there are established career paths for women, regardless of what level they start in your organization. Highlight examples of other employees who have followed these paths and moved up the corporate ladder. Create programs that offer executive training for mid-management and director levels and provide advanced supply chain training if you are looking to hire at the entry-level and allow employees to develop their skill set and grow. In a June 2021 study, Gartner Inc. found that organizations struggle with retaining mid-career women due to lack of career and development opportunities.
"Supply chain leaders who are serious about their gender equality efforts must create tailored leadership development programs and explore flexible work policies that cater to the needs of mid-career women," said Dana Stiffler, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice.
The same Gartner report found that women now comprise 41% of the supply chain workforce. The report stated that every leadership level saw increases in representation except for leadership levels, which had a slight decline. The overall increase is encouraging, but there is still progress that needs to be made to retain mid-career and executive talent.
If you think supply chains are chaotic, try being a working mom or single parent. Working a full-time job and managing the responsibilities of a household and children can be daunting, overwhelming, and sometimes completely exhausting. Organizations that understand the pressure these parents are under, both at work and at home, and offer flexible working hours greatly alleviate employee stress.
The ability to work remotely when needed was common with my employers prior to COVID-19, but then became the norm for many others as offices shut down. This allowed me and many others to maintain my job while our children were at home remote learning. The pandemic was, and continues to be, very stressful on everybody. Having leadership that supports flexible work schedules allows for working moms and single parents to support remote learning, appointments, practices, performances, or family illness. This level of trust between employer and employee demonstrates the value organizations put on employee wellness, which is a major component in retaining top talent.
The ongoing ocean shipping challenges continue to cause chaos across global supply chains. To solve these problems, we need a workforce that is not afraid to think outside the box.
By making workforce diversity a priority, organizations can attract and retain leaders who will seek to solve complex challenges in new ways. I say this not just to promote an inclusive environment for women, but also as a veteran of this industry: we need a fresh mindset. What we’re doing isn’t working and while new solutions might run counter to traditional decisions, new ideas are the best way to get us out of this mess.
Stefany Martin is global head of partnerships and alliances at Slync.io.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.