Proco - Insights

Women and the supply chain opportunity - own it!

By Richard Paisley in London

Women and the supply chain opportunity - own it!

In this guest column written for International Women’s Day 2016, Beth Morgan, Vice President Content Operations at SCM World, a cross-industry learning community powered by the world’s most influential supply chain practitioners, takes a look at the outlook for parity in the supply chain profession…

For the last 10 years, the World Economic Forum has measured the global gender gap to understand the differences for men and women when it comes to health, education, political representation and earnings. The forecasted timeline for full gender parity presents a startling reality: across the 145 economies measured, gender parity isn’t expected to be achieved until 2133, a staggering 117 years from now. It should come as no surprise to learn, then, that the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is gender parity.

Back in 2013, my colleague Kevin O’Marah struck a nerve in the SCM World community when he wrote a column asking why there weren’t more female role models at the top of the supply chain profession? A follow-up survey invited the views of both men and women on the topic.

The survey showed that while the skills women offer were viewed (by both men and women) as advantageous for supply chain management, less than 20% of supervisory level positions in their companies were filled by women. Interestingly, although 52% male respondents said they thought that women had equal career opportunities when compared to men, the exact same number of women disagreed, saying that they were disadvantaged in comparison to their male colleagues.

The female view is certainly backed up when we look at how well women are represented further along the supply chain career path, with data from a more recent SCM World survey last year showing that there is still some way to go before there is parity at more senior levels.

1 | Women are still under-represented at more senior levels

Source: SCM World talent survey 2015
% of respondents, n=536

Likewise, and as an extension to this, women still typically earn less than their male colleagues.

2 | State of remuneration in supply chain

Source: SCM World talent survey 2015
% of respondents, n=520

If the majority of men think women have equal career opportunities in supply chain (and indeed a further 15% said they thought women had an advantage when compared to men), it begs the question: why then does this gap exist? And what can we do about it?

Own your future

The solution to this challenge is not one easily addressed in a single blog. But if you’re a woman reading this, let’s start by owning the issue and work on the things where we can make a difference ourselves. How much does the answer lie in our own hands?

As an example, Beth Ford, a member of SCM World’s Executive Advisory Board and the CSCO & COO at Land O'Lakes (a multi-billion-dollar food and agriculture company in the United States), makes the point that women will often defer when they have only four of five requirements for a given job opportunity, whereas men will take it even if they only have one of the five. Are we helping ourselves here? Probably not. What’s more, we know our male colleagues already think we can do it, so why don’t we?

The future is far from doom and gloom, however. Last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing a number of graduates and post-graduates from 10 of the world’s top supply chain university programmes in the UK and the US. Out of 20 interviews in total, nine were with women (reflecting, quite coincidentally, that most of the supply chain courses included in our universities survey have a fairly even 50/50 split when it comes to gender). All of the young professionals I spoke to were excited about the career opportunities ahead of them. When I raised the question of women in supply chain, it was a non-issue – most were surprised I even asked. For these young professionals, there are no limits. They selected supply chain as their career of choice, and without exception (female and male) they all shared the same thing: a desire to solve problems and the opportunity to make a difference, not only in the organisations they would eventually work for, but also in the world. They see supply chain as an exciting place to be, with a growing number of female role models out there to inspire them.

In the words of one of the female students from the University of Michigan, “it’s a great moment to be a supply chain professional”.

The future is ours for the taking. You just need to put your hands out and grab it.

Beth Morgan
Vice President, Content Operations


For more information, visit

Like our thinking? Share the idea…

About the author

Richard Paisley founded Proco Global in 2008 in response to a very obvious gap in the market – executive level recruitment focused solely on end-to-end supply chains (procurement, manufacturing, and quality and operational excellence). His ambition and tenacity have seen the business grow to more than 100 people in nine different global locations.

Got an opinion? Let us know