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Abel A. Tamanji

Senior Student at University Of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Comment

April 30, 2020

Supply Chain Comment: What to Do about Lack of Gender Diversity in Supply Chain Management


The Probem is Real. Here is What to the Industry Needs to Do


There is a disparity in gender in supply chain management. Supply chain management is overwhelmingly dominated by men, and women are often at a disadvantage in leadership in supply chain management. This article illustrates the lack of gender diversity in supply chain management caused by work-life imbalance in terms of childcare and lack of confidence, and offers solutions for these causes.

Wilhjelm Says...

The AWESOME (Achieving Women's Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management, and Education) organization has made a great impact on gender diversity in supply chain management.

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A cause that is often cited is work-life imbalance with respect to childcare. This is very challenging for both men and women, however, the work-life imbalance has a toll on mostly women with respect to childcare, even though fathers are more involved in childcare than they were 50 years ago (Livingston & Parker, 2016). The work-life dynamic has changed for the fathers but not the mothers.

According to Livingston and Parker, they state that, "in 2016, fathers reported spending an average of eight hours a week on childcare – about triple the time they provided in 1965. And fathers put in about 10 hours a week on household chores in 2016, up from four hours in 1965. By comparison, mothers spent an average of about 14 hours a week on childcare and 18 hours a week on housework in 2016" (Livingston & Parker, 2016).

Furthermore, another cause is due to imposter syndrome, which women tend to suffer from more than men. Imposter syndrome means a feeling of doubt. To be fair, men also have issues with confidence or low self-esteem, especially in terms of talking to women due to the halo effect or fear of being rejected. On the other hand, in supply chain management, women often lack confidence. Zenger notes that this female confidence challenge was also described as the "imposter syndrome" by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes.

Women frequently express that they don't feel they deserve their job and are ‘imposters' who could be found out at any moment. They found that women worry more about being disliked, appearing unattractive, outshining others, or grabbing too much attention" (Zenger, 2018). In my opinion, this is the main cause of the lack of gender diversity in supply chain management positions. A 2015 KPMG Women's Leadership Study of 2,410 professional working women and 604 college women between the ages of 18 and 64 were surveyed, and 67% of women in the study said they need more support building confidence to feel like they can be leaders (KPMG, 2015).


The lack of confidence affects a lot of opportunities for women that are related to leadership. Also, in this study, 92% of women stated that they don't have the confidence to ask for sponsors, 79% of women stated they lack confidence seeking mentors, and 76% of women stated their lack of confidence asking for senior leadership (KPMG, 2015). In addition, 17.9% of dictatorships in supply chain management are held by women (Rundle, 2019).

Unfortunately, gender biases are embedded in stereotypes that play a role into the lack of gender diversity in supply chain management. Unconscious gender bias plays a role into gender disparity. Women are looked upon as being emotional and can't handle pressures in leadership positions. In a perception survey of 400 managers around the world, men stated that unconscious bias is a top barrier to women's advancements in leadership (ACT & EMP, 2017). In a 2018 Gartner/AWESOME survey, 50% of companies did not value gender diversity because it wasn't a business priority (AWESOME & Gartner, 2018).

Some Solutions to Consider

One solution is to make an organization or a group and establish the goal by having a positive impact on gender diversity in supply chain positions by spreading awareness of gender diversity and advocating persistently for it, especially to young women who want to be in leadership positions in supply chain management. When there are productive discussions about gender diversity in an organization and persistent advocacy for it, it lowers the odds of the problem occurring because it brings awareness. The AWESOME (Achieving Women's Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management, and Education) organization has made a great impact on gender diversity in supply chain management.

This organization was founded by Ann Drake in 2013. It has secured engagements with nearly 1,500 senior supply chain leaders from a wide range of companies and industries in supply chain management (AWESOME). This organization has also taken part in annual research on woman in leadership positions in supply chain management with a research organization called Gartner. The goal of the annual studies is to, figure out why women most often struggle into getting in leadership positions in supply chain management and implement measures for progress. A 2019 Gartner/AWESOME study showed that 59% of businesses value gender diversity (AWESOME & Gartner, 2019) compared to 50% of businesses in 2018 from the 2018 Garner/AWESOME study (AWESOME & Gartner, 2018). Also, the AWESOME organization has established scholarships for women in universities to take part in events such as the CSCMP (Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals) EDGE Conference and the annual AWESOME Symposium. Furthermore, this network has grown to include more than 1,300 senior supply chain women leaders (AWESOME).

Furthermore, more companies in the USA should have a good maternity leave policy. Studies show that paid parental leave has mental, physical, and emotional health benefits. Woman working for higher wages doesn't matter if they can't take some time off for childcare. A company that has a good parental leave policy is Deloitte. Deloitte is a multinational company that is well known across the work for their generous parental leave policy. The company offers both parents up to 16 weeks of leave, which is paid in full (DeHaas, Deb, & Center for Board Effectiveness, 2018).


In 2018, Cathy Engelbert, who is the Former CEO of Deloitte, stated that "We believe our new paid family leave program is a differentiator for talent and will not only help us retain our current people but attract top talent as well. This is how innovative organizations in the age of transformation can do not just what's right for their people, but what's smart for their businesses, too" (DeHaas, Deb, & Center for Board Effectiveness, 2018). Other companies that have good maternity leave policies are Microsoft, Twitter and Citibank.

Inclusion and gender diversity are very important in supply chain management, however, that doesn't seem to be practiced because women have problems with confidence and need a better work-life balance with respect to childcare.


Any reaction to this Expert Insight column? Send below.

Your Comments/Feedback

Paul Huneycutt

The FSL Group,
Posted on: Mar, 22 2021
 I really like your ideas on this topic. Thanks for sharing this article!



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