Publication Date

Summary Report for the Women in Supply Chain Summit: Achieving Balance in SCM held on March 26 - 27 2019 at MIT.

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Executive Summary

MIT CTL hosted an invitation-only Women in Supply Chain Summit. More than 60 women (and a few men) from a variety of industries discussed how to bring more women into the supply chain profession, particularly at senior management levels. Each session began with a speaker and then moved to a panel format in which the participants and moderators asked questions of the panelists. (To encourage open sharing on this sensitive topic, the identities of speakers and companies have been removed from this report.) At the end of the day, participants divided into teams and listed their key takeaways, which they presented to the group.

The first session of the day focused on balance in the supply chain profession, both in terms of gender balance and work/life balance. There were some disheartening statistics: even though women earn 57% of all Bachelors degrees and 59% of all Masters degrees, and hold 52% of all professional jobs in the US, they only represent 39% of the supply chain workforce. This imbalance grows worse the higher up the career ladder one rises in the supply chain. Women constitute a mere 14 % of senior vice president (SVP), executive vice president (EVP) and C-Suite jobs in the supply chain.

But companies that do address this imbalance reap rewards. Improved work/ life balance and gender parity bring increased profitability, productivity, employee engagement, and employee retention rates. Furthermore, research shows that gender diversity brings improvements in operating margins, innovation, and highly technical problem-solving. Finally, improved gender parity could inject from $12 trillion to $28 trillion into the global economy by 2025. Today’s supply chain is a relationship job. Supply chain depends on relationships between transacting parties – and relationship-building is a strong skill that women bring to the table.

Along with gender balance, the topic of personal work/life balance was discussed, leading to a personal playbook for finding your internal compass, setting boundaries, gaining confidence, taming your inner voice, implementing work/life balance, and raising the next generation of women supply chain leaders.

Unlike the first session, which provided a foundation and a personal playbook, the second session provided a company playbook for closing the gender gap by addressing the hiring, developing, and retention of women in the supply chain.

The third session provided a joint playbook in which women and companies work to form beneficial one-on-one relationships such as mentors, sponsors, and coaches to accelerate the rise of women into the upper ranks of supply chain leadership. Accelerated leadership programs for women, networking, and comparisons between formal and informal programs were also discussed.

The fourth session provided a leader’s playbook for leading global teams, describing methods for growing a diverse global team, respecting the local culture, and hiring more women into global supply chain teams. The goal was to match the gender diversity of the country in which the team operated.

Overall, the event surveyed the issues and potential remedies for this personal and organizational challenge. The summit also was a potential kick-off for future conferences or research efforts. As one female COO said, “Don’t just stand for the success of other women -- insist on it.”