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ASCM Insights

Promoting Women in Supply Chain


No matter who or where you are in your supply chain career, you need to start caring about advancing women in the field. That’s because women make our supply chain organizations stronger and position our companies for sustainable, profitable growth. 

If you’re in supply chain today, you’re in the catbird seat — in a field that is growing and transforming the way business gets done. And it’s a field that’s projected to grow so much that economists and other experts predict labor shortages in coming years. In some areas of the US and the world, this already is happening. In the markets that are near full employment now, it can be quite problematic. Many of our ASCM Members have mentioned that at their companies it takes a very long time to fill open supply chain, logistics, manufacturing and operations roles. This means more work for current employees, less innovation and more frustration, which is not good for employees, customers or companies.

It’s time to take action. Consider the facts — though women make up nearly 47 percent of the US labor workforce, they comprise only 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce, according to a 2016 survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With an estimated 2 million manufacturing jobs expected to go unfilled in the next decade, encouraging women to enter supply chain is one obvious solution to the widening skills gap.

APICS is dedicated to attracting, promoting and retaining women in supply chain. Over the past three years we have partnered with The Manufacturing Institute to promote the role of women in manufacturing and supply chain through the STEP (science, technology, engineering and production) Ahead initiative, which provides mentoring and recognition opportunities for women in the field. The STEP Ahead Awards honor women across all levels of supply chain and manufacturing who have demonstrated leadership and excellence in their careers. More than 600 women have been honored over the past five years, a recognition that honorees say has helped their careers and raised the visibility of women.

 In addition, APICS contributes to research efforts to address and understand this important topic. This year, together with Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, APICS published the insightful report “Women in manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters.” More than 600 women in manufacturing were surveyed, and nearly 20 manufacturing executives interviewed, to explore how effectively companies are attracting, recruiting and advancing women, and what steps can be taken to close the gender gap.

Ultimately, the research points out that building a diverse workforce benefits employers through an increase in perspectives, innovation, profits and organizational management. Further, encouraging women to enter supply chain and manufacturing careers helps companies expand their talent pool, and offers women the chance to participate in a field that offers interesting work, attractive pay and work-life balance.  

On Tuesday, October 17, APICS will host its inaugural Women in Supply Chain Forum. Held in conjunction with APICS 2017 in San Antonio, this highly interactive forum will feature discussions on what companies can and have been doing to attract and retain women in supply chain and women’s own experiences as supply chain experts.

Supply chain is a growing field with a lot of opportunity, which goes hand in hand with APICS’s professional development focus. With this forum and our other initiatives, we aim to show employers struggling to fill jobs the untapped potential of women in supply chain. We are actively celebrating and supporting women currently in the field, and providing perspectives and resources to illuminate career pathways and leadership opportunities. 

The forum is open to all, and we encourage and value the participation of those interested and supportive of the advancement of women in supply chain. Learn more about the forum and register for the full conference or purchase a one-day registration for Tuesday, October 17 to attend.

About the Author

Jennifer Daniels Former Vice President of Marketing, APICS

Jennifer Daniels is a former vice president of marketing at APICS.

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