The supply chain landscape has never been more complex. With a myriad of moving parts, changing circumstances, and constant disruption, today’s business environment needs leaders who can sift through the noise, analyze key insights, and drive real transformation through an integrated, cross-functional approach. We need leaders who understand how to navigate chaos, quickly identify the source of an issue, and formulate a plan that meets the needs of a variety of stakeholders. In other words, we need more women.
Supporting women in supply chain is one of the most important things we can do to address the ongoing disruption in this space. The urgent talent shortage, combined with the retirement of long-time supply chain experts, leaves a massive gap that needs to be filled. On top of the workforce supply problem, the pandemic, international conflict, and other global crises have brought more attention and scrutiny to this space than ever before. In order to keep up in this dynamic industry, companies are examining all of their options to become more intelligent, sustainable, and risk-resilient enterprises.
In my daily discussions with customers, I hear a strong desire for and commitment to transformation. To implement those major changes across their businesses, companies need leaders who will not only manage the change they are focused on today but also are well suited to tackle the challenges ahead. This environment presents a massive opportunity for fresh talent—both for those just starting their career and those wanting to make a career move.
Women are a natural fit to fill this gap and excel in supply chain. In a recent study by the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS), women were found to be better collaborators than their male counterparts—more inclined to seek win-win scenarios and maximize outcomes for the group. While anyone in this industry will tell you there are many intricacies to our supply chains, women tend to have an innate ability to see the big picture, understand the connections between various elements, and recognize the impact one factor has on another. While there has been progress in recent years, supply chain remains a heavily male-dominated field, particularly in manufacturing and logistics. These are a few reasons I encourage women to pursue a career in supply chain.
When I speak with aspiring women supply chain leaders from a non-supply chain background, I too often find that they discount their experience and count themselves out of opportunities. They tend to think they are not ready for the role or will not receive the respect needed to lead in this capacity. As someone who has, for most of my career, been the only—or one of the few—women in the room, I understand where this idea comes from. However, it is usually not true, and it is holding women back from achieving their full potential.
That environment presents an opportunity. If you’re the only woman in the room and you contribute something relevant, intelligent, and interesting to the conversation, people will remember you. Just about any time you try something new, you will not feel fully ready. It is a challenge, and it’s one that’s important to our continued growth. That is why, when we find ourselves in these conversations, we question our assumptions and fairly assess what is required to do the job. A background in supply chain is not necessary to enter a career in supply chain. Employers in this field seek problem solvers with deep analytical skills, a team mindset, and a persistent drive to learn. I will say that a background in finance transfers incredibly well, given the need to understand both micro- and macroeconomics and how those pieces interact. Regardless of background, supply chain presents an exciting career growth opportunity for women.
There is so much we can do as business leaders to support the advancement of women in supply chain. One way I have found to be highly effective and rewarding is to facilitate forums for women in supply chain to empower one another. In October 2021, I founded the SAP Women in Supply Chain (WISC) Network, bringing together a community of supply chain professionals to identify, encourage, develop, and elevate a new generation of women to impact global supply chains profoundly. The network is comprised of over 850 supply chain professionals at all career levels, including SAP employees, partners, customers, and students. The only requirement for membership is that you are interested in helping other women in this exciting field of supply chain.
The WISC Network meets virtually every quarter and in person twice per year—once at SAP Sapphire and at an SAP supply chain event. Our events have featured many incredible speakers, including Olympic champions, polar explorers, aviators, professors, and innovative business leaders. Most recently, the group met in February at the SAP Newtown Square office for a live broadcast keynote presentation and panel discussion with speakers from LNS Research, A.O. Smith, Swagelok, ABIOMED, and SAP. This network is designed to connect supply chain professionals with those who will mentor, coach, encourage, sponsor, and guide them. It also helps amplify women’s impact in supply chain and brings to light some of the unique challenges women face in this growing field. There remains an overarching need for these networks globally, and I am excited to do what I can to advocate for women in supply chain in our community.
Looking ahead, we know that disruption will continue. How we navigate that disruption will require the collaboration of teams across functions, businesses, and industries. Advancing, supporting, and empowering women in supply chain is a critical business imperative for ensuring collective long-term success.
This guest perspective was authored by Darcy MacClaren, SVP of Digital Supply Chain and Industry 4.0 at SAP North America, SAP.