Women still overlooked in supply chain

There are no more females in the supply chain profession than there were in the 1980s, the 2011 Smart Conference finds

Women still overlooked in supply chain
Women still overlooked in supply chain

By Anna Game-Lopata | May 26, 2011

There are no more females in the supply chain profession than there were in the 1980s, a serious indightment on the industry.

That’s according to Tip Top Operations
Director Lis Mannes, a panel speaker at today’s Smart Conference keynote breakfast –'A vital link: Women in Supply Chain Management'.

told over 400 delegates
it’s clearly not a skills issue as women are just as adept as men at the strategic thinking required, arguably excelling at multi-skilling, negotiation and organisational dexterity where men in some instances may be weaker.

"If it’s not the skills, we need to look deeper at the reasons women are not being recruited in senior roles in supply chain," Mannes says.

Mannes suggests the reason may be routed in the long tradition of employing men in the sector, which has created the expectation that these are men’s roles.

"We have to recognise our own filters and be aware when we’re making decisions based on cultural norms," she says. "While we have low levels of female representation in companies, we’re self-selecting out 50 percent of the talent in this country."

"It’s a performance issue. It’s about bringing a balance of skills and thinking into the profession. We need to reflect society within our organisations.

"We can’t hope to have women at corporate senior levels in society until we deal with our pre-conceptions."

Panellist Nola Bansgrove, Director of Transport provider Banstrans says being treated respectfully is a key issue.

As s a semi trailer driver, Bansgrove says she was treated more respectfully at despatch windows than the blokes were, but the attitude doesn’t often extend to the corporate world.

"Number one, you’ve got to treat women respectfully," she says.

"Hopefully you’d treat all people respectfully but a lot of women aren’t treated respectfully within their workplace.

"Equal pay for equal work-there’s a really revolutionary concept- it still doesn’t happen in lots of places."

Invoke Alliance Managing Director and panellist Angela Tatlis agrees.

She points to the not-uncommon experience where management assumes a woman won’t be available to do her job if she has a family.

"A new senior male Vice President in the region asked me directly over the table at dinner when
I would get knocked up again."

"Admittedly, he was particularly rough around the edges but women experience these kinds of things all the time," Tatlis says.

"Sometimes they mean well, making decisions on your behalf ‘because you have children’ which is really not what you want."

"Everyone wants to be consulted before a decision is made."

"We need to recognise women and men have different styles and that’s okay. It’s not just a gender issue it’s a diversity issue. We need to create avenues for all voices to be heard."

The issue of the attraction to and retention of women in supply chain management has never been so pertinent given the current skills crisis.

"We have to recognise it is a diminishing work pool so failing to attract women severely limits a company’s options," Mannes says.

"Once we understand why we fail to attract women from schools and universities we can then get strategies in place to actually solve the problems."

Like her peers at the conference, Mannes argues the way companies strategically manage their supply chain is fundamentally important to their success.

"The strategy revolves around handling and managing people, how we respond to the demands of the future," she says.

"It’s important to recognise when we have outdated business models and to proactively respond ahead of that curve to influence the companies we work for.

"We can influence the agenda far more heavily from our supply chain point of view because very few other people have the breadth of experiences that we have."

Mannes argues finding more talented, more capable people involves recruiting more women.

"We can no longer be the stopping place for people on their way to somewhere else," she says.

"This is a profession of value to the world, it allows the commercial side of the business to do what they do best, and we need that to be communicated.

"We have to find a way of attracting talented people whatever their gender."

ASX research of Standard and Poors 500 companies shows businesses committed to promoting minority and women workers have an annual return on investment of 18.3 percent over five years.

This compares to an annualised return of just 7.9 percent for those with no such policies.

"To fail in hiring women is to fail in giving your business its best shot by accessing all the possibilities," Bangrove says. "It is just poor business, short sighted and silly."

Bangrove claims neurologists will tell you females are hardwired differently to males.

"We have neural pathways to transfer huge amounts of information really fast," she says.

"There’s a superhighway through the middle of our brain compared to a bit of an arterial road in a man’s brain."

"I’m not saying men can’t learn the skills of women and vice versa, but because of the way our brains work were just different. Smart businesses will tap into that and benefit."

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