Labor crisis: Diversity is the answer

This month, editor at large Bridget McCrea uses The Big Picture platform to look at how far women have come in supply chain management. She explores the inroads women are making; re-acquaints us with several of the organizations and networks advocating for the advancement of women in leadership roles.

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I’m a big fan of a feature series we launched a few years ago called The Big Picture—stories that break out of our traditional equipment-centric and best practices coverage and focus on the broader role materials handling plays in driving larger company initiatives.

These stories have given Modern readers a more comprehensive look at how warehouse/DC operations are not only tied to success, but in many cases have become the foundation of the business strategy. Over the years, these stories have explored the evolution of robotics; explained how Big Data fits into operations; and have taken more theoretical angles.

This month, editor at large Bridget McCrea uses The Big Picture platform to look at how far women have come in supply chain management. She explores the inroads women are making; re-acquaints us with several of the organizations and networks advocating for the advancement of women in leadership roles; and shares the findings of one of the more comprehensive surveys done on the subject.

McCrea reports that Gartner’s third-annual “Women in Supply Chain Survey,” done in conjunction with the organization AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management & Education), reveals that the proportion of women in executive roles in supply chain—those reporting directly to the CEO or president—is “strong and sustained” year-over-year relative to other functions.

Despite some positive momentum, McCrea believes some of the progress in the high-level data needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

“When you dig into the data of the Gartner survey, you find the number of women in leadership remains stagnant, as it dropped one percentage point over last year’s findings,” says McCrea. “While that may be considered ‘strong’ in comparison to other job titles, I was surprised that number hasn’t ticked up.”

An even deeper dive into the data reveals that most of the women in the industry blame a lack of mentors for this stasis, while many more feel that for most companies, the advancement of women in their organizations is still just lip service. “They know they need to attract more women, but they either don’t know how to do it, or they just don’t do it at all,” says McCrea.

As nearly every supply chain operation is currently mired in what most would call a “labor crisis,” the time is now for women in these leadership roles—that 14%— to get involved in organizations like AWESOME or begin their own push to get more women in the pipeline for supply chain positions—a movement that’s gaining ground.

“While some of the numbers are disheartening, the survey shows respondents are leading their own initiatives to attract more women to supply chain jobs rather than relying on standard HR methods,” says McCrea. She reports that 60% say they have established targeted initiatives to recruit, develop, retain or advance women—up from 44% in 2017.

“I can’t think of a better time for companies to extend their outreach and support these recruitment and development initiatives,” adds McCrea. “Diversity and inclusion may just be the answer to this current labor crisis—and a surefire cure for any labor shortfalls in the future.”


About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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