The MIT CTL Women in Supply Chain Initiative (WISCI) seeks to better understand gender balance in supply chain management. We aim to create knowledge and tools for people interested in creating more gender balance in their organizations.
Engineering and Supply Chain Management have traditionally been male-dominated fields. This is slowly changing. According to the “2018 Women in Supply Chain Survey” by Gartner, the average percentage of women in Supply Chain roles has increased from 35% to 41% over a five-year period from 2016-2021.
A combination of disheartening gender balance statistics – and facts about the benefits of gender balance – provided motivation for this initiative.
Currently, supply chains do not have good gender balance. 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 37% 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 15% of senior vice president (SVP), executive vice president (EVP) and C-Suite jobs in supply chain. **
More so than some other corporate functions, working in supply chains may potentially bring heavy personal demands such as global travel and solving operational problems on a 24×7 basis. That presents employees, managers, and executives in supply chain with the challenge of managing work/life balance for themselves, for the people they lead, or for those for whom they provide a role model.
Closing the Gender Gap
We have to attract more women to apply for supply chain positions, develop their talent to take on leadership positions, and adopt policies and practices that encourage women to stay in the field.
One challenge for large organizations to attract women to supply chain because supply chain jobs are not as glamorous. On the startup side, talent for supply chain and operations is 50-60 percent because they are more in tune with the mission.
Mentorship, Coaching, Sponsorship, and Networking
Companies can also help develop and retain women leaders through different programs. Likewise, jointly with other women, women can support each other. Options include mentors, coaches, sponsors, champions, advocates, ledge buddies, and network connections. All involve developing relationships that help further a woman’s career through some combination of knowledge, expertise, advocacy, reputation, emotional support, personal growth, therapy, or access to key resources in the organization. Companies should foster mentoring programs as well as champions and advocates who can guide and encourage women to take on greater roles. Both individuals and companies can take steps to formally or informally foster these valuable connections.