When I started my supply chain career over 14 years ago, I was not aware of the vast number of areas of and roles in supply chain management, and I couldn’t have predicted how I was going to feel performing in a male-dominated field.
According to a study by Gartner, women account for an average of about 38% of the total supply chain workforce and, as you go higher in the leadership ranks, the percentage of women tends to decrease to 14%.
On a positive note, a lot of companies are making strides to attract more women into supply chain jobs. There is demand for innovative thinkers and creative problem-solvers in the supply chain, so opportunities for women in logistics and supply chain will continue to grow.
One factor that has made a difference in my career in the supply chain as I have evolved is mentorship. Mentors helped me to earn the respect of my counterparts and increase my professional credibility. In areas such as logistics and transportation management, it might take some time to prove yourself, but once you have proven that you are capable, you are treated respectfully. The main thing is to continue to deliver on your promises.
The supply chain is a very broad area of knowledge. At the beginning of my career, I was unclear about which area to specialize in. As I researched more about the field, I discovered I could focus on procurement, transportation, warehousing, inventory management, logistics and distribution, among others. I found how important it is to learn about all the different areas involved in the supply chain.
Armed with the business knowledge acquired at UNC Kenan-Flagler, I have been able to better understand how all the pieces fit together in supply chain management. Now it is easier for me to communicate with other areas of the business, such as procurement, sales and engineering, and understand how the areas relate to each other.
There are many aspects of supply chain management you will not find in any books. You will need to have a conversation with experts in the specific areas or simply do the tasks yourself to learn.
Having the opportunity to pursue different roles within the supply chain early on your career would be ideal, but some companies require specific experience before you can make a transition. If the opportunity presents itself within your organization, be sure to rotate into other areas of the business.
We need more women in the supply chain. We are passionate about what we do, which drives results. We are collaborative and adaptable, which are critical skills in this arena. To attract more women, leaders need to provide more visibility for women with potential who are already performing supply chain roles, as well as provide career development, sponsorship and mentorship inside the organization.
By Diana Berry (MBA ’15), supply chain import/export specialist, Harsco Rail