‘Pull In’ Initiatives More Effective Than ‘Lean In’ for Retaining and Advancing Women in Supply Chain

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While women only make up about 20% of supply chain vice presidents today, that share is expected to rise to roughly one in three by 2023, according to a new report from Gartner and AWESOME, a leadership organization focused on the advancement of women in supply chain.

Now in its third year, the 2018 Women in Supply Chain Survey focused on supply chain organizations’ initiatives on the retention and advancement of women. It found that while the percentage of women holding executive-level supply chain positions has risen in recent years, the average percentage of women leaders at other levels has remained flat.

This year, about 14% of companies reported that women held executive-level supply chain positions, up from 7% in 2016. For other leadership positions such as managers, directors and VPs, however, the percentage of women in these roles has stagnated. In the past three years, women have held roughly 30% of manager and supervisor roles, 25% of senior manager and director roles, and 20% of senior director and VP roles.

As the chart below shows, sector matters when it comes to women’s advancement into senior positions. Categorized under “other verticals” are life sciences, healthcare, telecommunications, hospitality and utilities, where supply chain tends to be regarded as a back-office function and have traditionally employed more women.

A Trend Toward ‘Pull In’ Initiatives

Half of the survey respondents reported that their organizations have either formal goals or general objectives to increase the number of women in leadership positions. This marks an increase from 2017, when 57% reported that their organizations have neither formal goals nor general objectives.

Specifically, the percentage of organizations with formal goals to improve gender diversity has increased from 11% in 2017 to 18% in 2018, whereas the percentage of organizations with general objectives regarding gender diversity has held steady at 32%.

And among the organizations that have goals to increase the number of women in senior positions, 60% say that there are targeted initiatives to “recruit, develop, retain and/or advance women in supply chain,” in contrast to 44% in 2017.

 These targeted initiatives are particularly effective, according to the report, which differentiates between what it calls “pull in” and “lean in” initiatives.

The former refers to proactive initiatives on the part of the organization, such as recruiting and integrated pipeline planning. The latter refers to employee resource groups and leadership skills training, which have been shown to be less effective in improving gender representation in senior roles.

In addition, the report identified a number of key actions for recruiting, retaining and advancing women. These include changing cultural values, leadership orientation and behaviors; increasing the visibility of women leaders; and improving outreach and candidate identification.

While respondents identified flexibility and family-friendly policies as important for recruiting and retaining women, these factors were seen as less crucial for advancing women to top leadership roles. Instead, for advancement, integrated pipeline planning was singled out as key.

Read the full report here.

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