Women comprise 41% of the supply chain workforce in 2021, up from 39% in 2020, according to a recent survey by Gartner, Inc.
Every leadership level saw an increase in representation, except the executive level where there has been a slight decline. In 2021, women account for 15% of executive level roles, down from 17% in 2020 (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Women in Supply Chain Leadership Roles
Source: Gartner (June 2021)
The Women in Supply Chain Survey 2021 by Gartner, and AWESOME, surveyed 223 supply chain organisations from February through March 2021. The findings showed the highest percentage of women in the supply chain workforce since the first edition of the survey in 2016.
"Contrary to other industries, supply chain’s mission-criticality during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many sectors did not reduce their workforce, but rather continued to hire and even faced talent shortages, especially in the product supply chains," said Dana Stiffler, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. "This resulted in many women not only standing their ground in supply chain organisations but increasing their representation in organisations. We also recorded a record number of specific commitments and supply chain-led actions and saw existing programs starting to pay off."
Retaining Midcareer Women Poses Biggest Challenge
The pandemic does not appear to have disrupted supply chain gender equality efforts, according to the survey. Eighty-four percent of responding organisations stated that COVID-19 had no discernible impact on their ability to retain and advance women.
However, 54% of survey respondents said that retaining midcareer women is an increasing challenge. Lack of career opportunities is the top reason that midcareer women left a supply chain organization or provider. The second-most selected option was development opportunities.
"Supply chain leaders who are serious about their gender equality efforts must create tailored leadership development programs and explore flexible work policies that cater to the needs of midcareer women," Stiffler said.
More Organisations Are Setting Goals for Gender Diversity and Start Initiatives
Previous years have shown that setting goals and having stated objectives are crucial drivers for improvements in pipelines and other DEI outcomes. In 2021, the proportion of supply chain organisations with any type of goal jumped to 73% from 64% in 2020. Within the subset of respondents (29%) who have stated objectives, 68% said the supply chain organisation had a targeted initiative focused on women, a huge step up from 46% in 2020.
"It's encouraging to see that the larger share of this jump was for more formal targets and specific goals on management scorecards. For these respondents, there is greater accountability for results – and we see the correlation with stronger representation and inclusion showing up in pipelines," Stiffler concluded.
About the Survey
For Gartner’s Women in Supply Chain Survey 2021, Gartner partnered with AWESOME to develop the survey and recruit participants. Qualified participants worked in organisations that have an internal supply chain organisation or in organisations where supply chain is a separate business unit, specialty or practice area, or those who are vendors of supply chain services and solutions. Organisations tracked and analysed had to have a minimum of $100 million in annual revenue.