Despite the diversification of its businesses and recent and relative feminization, the supply chain remains predominantly male, especially as we move up the organization chart. We have brought together a panel of experts in the field and in education to understand how to make supply chain jobs more attractive to women and remove the obstacles to the feminization of a sector that has strong recruitment needs:
Salome Ruel: associate professor of information systems management and supply chain management at Kedge Business School;
Marie-Laurence Deruaz: Logistics Director at Suez Eau France
Anicia Jaegler: director of the Department of Operations Management and Information Systems and professor at ISLI of Kedge Business School, delivers their analysis;
Just over 4 in 10 (41%) positions in the supply chain, according to the 2021 Gartner survey, are held by women. These numbers are slowly changing, as Gartner reported an occupancy rate of 39% in 2020 and 33% in 2019. However, in management positions their share is only 17% and declining. What are the persistent obstacles to this feminization?
Anicia Jaegler: “Historically, logistics has its origins in the military world. Then, it was implemented in the industrial world and associated with transport and storage. This explains its masculinization. The more recent supply chain is gradually becoming more feminine, with very significant differences depending on the activity and the sector ”.
Salome Ruel: “The operational functions of logistics – transport, handling, etc. – who constitute the bulk of the workforce, are less than 10% women. Conversely, in customer service, more than 9 out of 10 employees are women, but these profiles weigh little in the overall workforce.
The digitization of the sector, which pushes companies to recruit more “mathematical” profiles, does not seem conducive to the feminization of the sector, in particular in management positions, which are predominantly male.
This is linked to the fact that it is a masculine world which has difficulty in making room for women, but also to image problems generating a lack of attractiveness for some women ”.
Marie-Laurence Deruaz: “The supply chain is often reduced in the minds of people to its“ logistics ”part, which is historically considered to be human work, physical, with a lot of travel and staggered schedules, considered very restrictive.
These stereotypes apply to recruiters, but also to female candidates, who tend to censor themselves. Fewer in training, they have more difficulty taking the step to apply.
My own team of around sixty employees who carry out the operational tasks of supplying and preparing parcels includes six women ”.
How to make these jobs more attractive to women?
Anicia Jaegler: “The first action is the promotion of trades in industry, transport, e-commerce, etc. The supply chain is everywhere and its jobs are very diverse. Several initiatives are going in the right direction: a book for elementary school students, a card game for high school girls, etc.
Salome Ruel: “We have to work on the image of these professions. It should be noted that these trades, considered to be very manual and requiring muscles, have been greatly facilitated by mechanization, which also relieves men.
It should be noted that beyond logistics, the sector now encompasses a wide range of functions, around supply chain management.
As a teacher, I insist on their transversal and strategic dimensions. We need more logistics teachers. At Kedge Business School, the Higher Institute of Industrial Logistics, where I teach, and the Msc “International Transport” are headed by women. We have an educational role to play in training our students in negotiation and leadership and in trying to change the way students view their colleagues.
This image work must be carried out by companies, but also by journalists and public authorities. 100% feminine events such as the “Global Women Supply Chain Leaders 2020”, organized by B2G Consulting, are starting to take shape.
Finally, in the locker room, the change also involves strict application of the law which prohibits posters of naked women, which is considered sexual harassment. This may sound like anecdotal evidence, but it isn’t always. “
Marie-Laurence Deruaz: “We also need an active HR policy on gender equality. At Suez, it is about communicating to all employees on the stereotypes and discrimination that women may be victims of.
It is important that communication also highlights successful women and career opportunities.
Recently, we have set up a network of women to give them more visibility, allow them to share experiences, but also to decipher the codes and remove the barriers that they sometimes put up.
When I set up my team, I made sure to give both men and women a chance: two out of five site foremen are women. On a daily basis, I encourage teams to open up to this type of recruitment. We have some of the best female warehouse workers.
But these changes are not always without difficulties. We must also support the teams, because some members have difficulty in recognizing the legitimacy of women managers. This involves open discussions with these employees to help them take a step back from what they say and what they think, but also support for the manager.
What are the advantages for a company of having a more active diversity policy?
Marie-Laurence Deruaz: “Diversity in the broadest sense of the term is an asset for the company. It is the variety of experiences, skills and perspectives on the same issue that will make a team more effective. And diversity is part of it. On condition of knowing how to accept to cross the points of view. I have noticed that teams with women leave more room for communication.
Anicia Jaegler: “The research carried out has made it possible to link the presence of women and financial performance, sustainable performance and diversity.
Salome Ruel: “Women are more sensitive to issues of well-being at work and to compliance with Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE) rules.
They are also more sensitive to compliance with supplier codes of conduct; a key dimension at a time when consumers do not hesitate to boycott a brand that breaks ethical rules. Finally, research has shown that in supply chain audit situations, teams led by women perform better and discover more litigation and compliance issues.
Generix Group North America helps distribution and manufacturing companies achieve operational excellence with their WMS and MES supply chain solutions. We invite you to download our WMS Decision Making Guide here.
This article originally appeared here. Republished with permission.