The number of women in the supply chain workforce has ticked up slightly over the past year, rising from 39% to 41% between 2020 and 2021, according to the results of a study by Gartner Inc. and AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management, and Education).
The results marked a high point since the first edition of the survey in 2016, but it also revealed some areas where the sector has room for improvement. For example, the increase was reflected at every leadership level except for executive posts, where the proportion of women actually slipped from 17% to 15%.
That contraction mirrored the 54% of survey respondents who said that an increasing challenge in this area is retaining mid-career women. The top reasons for that hurdle are a lack of career opportunities and a lack of development opportunities, the researchers said.
Despite that difficulty, Gartner and AWESOME found that survey results also showed that two effective tools for increasing the number of women in the workforce are to set goals and to have stated objectives.
And both of those approaches are growing in popularity. In 2021, the proportion of supply chain organizations with any type of goal jumped to 73% from 64% in 2020. And within the subset of respondents (29%) who have stated objectives, 68% said the supply chain organization had a targeted initiative focused on women, a huge step up from 46% in 2020.
"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 midcareer women," Dana Stiffler, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice, said in a release.
"Contrary to other industries, supply chain’s mission-criticality during the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many sectors did not reduce their workforce, but rather continued to hire and even faced talent shortages, especially in the product supply chains," Stiffler said. "This resulted in many women not only standing their ground in supply chain organizations but increasing their representation in organizations.”
The survey, “Women in Supply Chain: 2021 Trends in Representation,” tabulated results as reported by 223 supply chain organizations between February and March 2021.