More women are reaching the top of the supply chain profession in 2020, but their pathway isn’t as clear as it should be, according to a Gartner survey released Tuesday.
The firm’s 2020 Women in Supply Chain Survey found that 17% of chief supply chain officers are women, up 6% from 2019 and the highest rate since the survey began in 2016. At the same time, the total number of women in supply chain roles remained unchanged compared to last year—39%—and fewer women reported working in vice president and director positions, factors that emphasize the need for organizations to focus on programs that help advance women to top leadership positions.
The Gartner survey polled 177 supply chain professionals in North America working at firms with at least $100 million in annual revenue.
“The increase in women executive leaders over the past year is a positive sign, however the survey showed that women don’t consistently make it through the pipeline,” Dana Stiffler, vice president and analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice, said in a statement announcing the survey results. “Lack of progress is not something the industry can afford at the moment. Supply chain’s role in the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent recovery is crucial, with lives and livelihoods at stake. This is a pivotal time for many women in mid-level and senior management positions.”
Stiffler and others say pipeline planning is key as business leaders continue to work toward gender equality across their organizations. Until recently, they say gender-focused inclusion and diversity initiatives focused mostly on employee resource groups and women’s leadership development programs. Although such efforts are important, the researchers also emphasize the need for companies to practice “integrated pipelining,” a combination of decision forum and development projects that pulls in and advances more women to top leadership positions.
“Not a single [survey] respondent cited employee resource groups as a top action for progressing women to senior leadership roles in supply chain. Leadership development programs or improved work-life balance also didn’t make the list,” Stiffler explained. “However, 21% claim that integrated pipeline planning is their best approach. This reinforces what we have found over the years: The right place to focus for diverse senior leadership is the pipeline and the decisions that support it.”
Lack of attention to such issues may prove to stall the forward momentum the study has shown over the last four years.
“The concern with the 2020 supply chain data is that VP gains made in 2019 were erased, which is likely to show up as flatness at the CSCO level in the next few years,” according to the 2020 survey research.
Visit Gartner’s website for more on the survey.