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Women in Leadership

Women are 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, and 59 percent of the college-educated, entry-level workforce. They earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees and 60 percent of all master’s degrees with more than 44 percent of the master’s degrees in business and management, including 37 percent of MBAs. Though these figures illustrate that women have the education to qualify for executive-level positions they are underrepresented with only 14.6 percent at the executive officer level, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.

The majority of women executive officer positions are in Finance, HR and Marketing. Unfortunately, Procurement and Supply Chain is still predominantly male focused.  When SCM World did a manual count of top supply chain executives in Fortune 500 companies they found only 22 women among 320 businesses had a true supply chain function. Only 6.9 percent of supply chain leaders are female which is well below the 35 percent of women entering the procurement field from college. Another survey done by SCM World, polled 56 universities around the world found 37 percent of students in the supply chain degree are women and three quarters of the universities polled reported increases in enrollment over the pasted five years.

Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, sheds light on the root cause that has stalled women’s progression into senior leadership. Sandberg says women will undervalue their achievements more often than their male counterparts. They need to take credit where credit is due and assume roles in leadership that highlight their strengths as women; the ability to collaborate, to integrate views, mentor and multitask.

The modern supply chain is ever evolving as businesses integrate their global supply chains.  Leaders need to have the ability to make analytical decisions of business trade-offs than asset-centric optimization logic of the 20th century. Many supply chain practitioners recognized that women leaders in supply chain often excel in forming, motivating and leveraging teams to get work done. A supply chain leadership position is a stepping stone to C suite positions for women although from a board-level perspective companies need to build an environment to bring more women into the diverse world of supply chain.

Some executives believe a quota for women supply chain leaders would help. While other executives believe that recruiting talent and mentoring earlier in their career will build a robust pipeline of women that are able to step into leadership roles. Either approach will help change the current landscape of woman leadership and promote awareness.  Women must also lean in for the next opportunity.  As Sandberg has said, “We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.” 

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