Addressing Gender & Racial Underrepresentation in the Supply Chain Workforce

Diverse people graphic
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

More supply chain companies are focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in regards to gender and race than ever before, but smaller companies in the sector are much less likely to identify this as a focus. When looking at representation among the workforce, small businesses in the sector again tend to lag behind their larger counterparts. Nonetheless, disparity regarding the percentages of women and People of Color at managerial and executive levels is a trait shared by supply chain companies regardless of size.

According to Gartner, women constitute just shy of 40% of the full-time supply chain workforce1. Their representation in supply chain is 11% less than in other industries2. Across the US, Canada, and Europe, 30% of full-time supply chain workers are People of Color. However, both women and POC's are underrepresented the further one goes up the corporate ladder. POC's represent 17%, and women 31%, of supply chain managers. One-quarter of senior managers are women and 11% are POC's. 11% of directors are POC's and 23% are women. 21% of VP's are women, while 9% are POC's.3

Establishing strong talent pipelines is key to getting and retaining greater representation of women and POC's (and all other underrepresented groups) in companies and in management and executive positions.4 Yet only 20% of surveyed supply chain companies are placing an emphasis on improving the talent pipeline.5 Talent pipelines begin with educating potential recruits about the supply chain sector, while widening the pool of these available candidates, and reducing barriers to hiring them (including countering implicit bias). Importantly it includes retention and promotion. The pipeline does not end at hiring. It extends throughout every level of the organization. Companies that only focus on improving recruitment are embracing hiring diversity initiatives, but ignoring inclusive efforts to retain diverse talent and equitable initiatives to ensure they are getting the mentoring, sponsoring, support, and opportunity to be promoted up the ranks.

1 Gartner for Supply Chain, 2021, "Supply Chain Commitment to DEI Skyrockets in 2021".

2 Mona A. Maurelli and Adam Mussomeli, 17 April, 2020, "Inclusion as the competitive advantage: The case for women in supply chain," Deloitte.

3 Gartner, 2021

4 Cassie Werber, 15 October, 2019, "McKinsey and Lean In say they’ve found the biggest barrier to gender parity at companies," Quartz at Work.

5 Gartner, 2021