The Gender Gap of Supply Chain professionals: Your business isn’t hiring the most talented people

From a survey by Procurement Leaders this year, it was found that only 10% of the most senior supply chain management roles are filled by women; meaning there is a 9 to 1 imbalance of men to women in executive SCM roles (Forbes 2017).

Source: Procurement Leaders

Chew on that statistic for a moment…

How’s it taste?

As a Caucasian male living in a first-world society I consider myself grossly unqualified to write about the social injustices, and oppression, minorities face within the business world of today. I have never experienced these same societally constructed inequities, and therefore cannot relate to them on an anecdotal level.

With that being said, if there were more Caucasian males living in first-world societies speaking about, being empathetic towards and acting upon the inequities minorities face within the business world today, we’d probably see a better representation of women (also known as 50% of the world’s population) as supply chain executives.

Gender equality, in SCM professions, is a topic much discussed and seldom acted upon, ironically enough. But, speaking of the topic sheds light upon the systematic perpetuations of gender inequity in business, which society has built for years, in our curriculum, in our media and in our personal life.

Back to school

In a chapter from the book Integrating Gender Equality into Business and Management Education: Lessons learned and Challenges remaining, author, Maureen A. Kilgour provides poignant commentary about what she believes could be one of the main accelerants of gender inequity within the business management sector.

Kilgour theorizes that the sex-role stereotyping in curriculum assigned to students, in business management universities and colleges, reflects the actual imbalance of women in executive management positions.

This theory offers a very interesting approach to understanding the development of a business executive’s psyche and norms.

Kilgour goes on to defend this theory by displaying the lack of female protagonists in literature according to case studies conducted by HBS (Harvard Business School). These case studies revealed there is a blatant negligence of the lopsidedly male-based literature being mirrored upon pupils, in classrooms, of even the most prestigious of business schools in the world.

The example of HBS’ lack of female representation in curriculum is just a small blip on the radar of literature riddled with gender inequality.

“In 2011, only 194 out of 5,816 Caseplace teaching resources (cases, syllabi and other documents) mentioned women” (Caseplace 2014).

How do we expect to empower women, utilizing their competencies in executive supply chain management positions, if there is such an awesome imbalance in the representation of female roles in literature taught in business management courses?

Sex-role stereotyping- literature taught in business schools can have a cumulative effect reinforcing stereotypes students will face as they graduate and begin their career in management professions (Kilgour 2015).

Time to face the facts

We can talk about the reasoning for gender inequity in supply chain management positions, and other business executive positions, until our faces turn blue.

Whether it’s the perpetuations of stereotypes, norms of leadership roles, cumulative effects of literature, a direct correlation of the media’s images, or caused by the taking of maternity leave etc., no one knows for sure.

One way or the other, there is a misrepresentation of women in executive business roles, especially within the field of SCM, and the only way to really drive home that fact is to display the facts.

Source: Fronetics

Break out your best poker face, because these statistics are appalling.

  • Females in the supply chain management profession can expect to 75% of their male counterparts sometimes even within the same corporation (Procurement Leaders 2017).
  • 45% women fill entry-level supply chain positions, but only 10% are presently active in executive level positions. That means that from the pool of women working within supply chain management positions, there is only a 4.5% chance of a female becoming a supply chain executive.
  • In a 2014 study by Industry Week magazine, it was found that “there [were] only 22 female Supply Chain executives out of 320 Fortune 500 companies with a dedicated Supply Chain function” (argentus.com 2014). That means there was 298 more Fortune 500 companies than there were women in supply chain positions in those Fortune 500 companies.
  • Some companies have implemented targets to employ women to leadership positions such as Mars, Cisco and Deutsche Telekom, whom have set the targets at 40% (Industry Week). This means that even companies that are progressive enough to have an action quota in place for hiring female supply chain executives are satisfied with a 60–40 male to female ratio.
  • “ 71% of global supply chain professionals believe women have a different natural skillset than men, and of those, 91% consider these skillsets to be advantageous to working within supply chain management” (Industry Week). Despite the majority SCM pro’s opinions, women’s representation in executive positions remains lopsided.

Where does that leave us?

Reducing the our image of business executive teams to a bunch of old white men is the wrong direction to be moving, year 2017.

The issue, of course, is a question of a much larger systematic fallacy rooted within society, and perpetuated in every step of becoming a supply chain management professional.

As stated, in one of my favorite quotes put bluntly, by Kevin Shriver of Land O’ Lakes,

“[…] If more than 50% of the population is women and less than 20% of the people in senior supply chain positions are women, then by default, we cannot be hiring the most talented people” (kinaxis.com).

Organizations globally must look within their hiring programs to actively fill positions of executives and board members with female professionals. Meeting quotas may receive naysayers whom will call it ‘unjust employment’, but not quite as much as the 9 men to 1 woman ratio that exists presently in SCM exec positions.

Administration, faculty, researchers and students of academic establishments worldwide must challenge their curriculum to ensure the empowerment of femininity in business management literature.

And then, there’s you.

I implore you, as the stakeholders in the future gender equality of generations to come, stay informed, have a voice and do your part to make a change.

Until next week.


This publication is brought to you by author Sam Jenks, but also on part by Kodiak Rating — A Supplier Relationship Management SaaS functioning out of Stockholm, Sweden. Kodiak Community intends to challenge traditional business practices with innovative thinking and creation.