The global pandemic disproportionately impacted employment opportunities for women all over the world. Yet the global supply chain industry bucked this trend. Women were at the heart of building the resilience that has seen the industry navigate large-scale challenges. But moving forward, women must play a central role in leading us to gain greater value from global supply chains.
The case for gender parity in every industry is a pressing social and labour issue. From an economic standpoint, advancing gender equality has the potential of adding $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030. But as we approach the halfway point to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals target of 2030, the impact of the last few years has slowed progress toward a fairer and gender-equal world.
The pandemic and geopolitical tensions have impacted us all, but the careers of women have been more vulnerable. The pandemic derailed much of the progress towards gender parity in the workplace. While women constituted approximately 39% of the global workforce, they suffered 54% of job losses during the height of the pandemic.
An Industry Moving Towards Gender Equality
Yet, in the logistics sector, women have been vital to building the resilience that global supply chains sought throughout the economic and geopolitical shocks of the past three years. In fact, global supply chains’ “mission-criticality” ensured that the industry continued to hire during the pandemic .
In a 2021 Gartner survey, the number of women working in the supply chain increased by 2% from 2020 to 2021, comprising 41% of the workforce. There was even an increase in female representation at leadership levels in the global supply chain. However, there was a decline in the number of female executives with women accounting for only 15% of executive-level roles.
Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report outlines that women represent 25% of leadership positions across the industry. That number is still too low when compared with the healthcare sector, for example, which has 46% of its leadership positions occupied by women. While it could be explained that it is typical to see men hired into industries traditionally dominated by men, transformation at managerial and leadership levels isn’t just about gender parity. The supply chain sector needs women to ensure the future of the industry and global trade is agile and secure, especially considering economic and geopolitical shocks.
Why Diversity Is Essential To Successful Supply Chain Management
Mitigating the complications of supply chain bottlenecks such as the Suez Crisis or the grain blockade out of Ukraine has required a fundamental rethinking of how logistics work. As a result, remapping networks and strategies such as nearshoring require supply chain operations and oversight that reflect the complexities of modern global trade. New technologies and data are driving greater value in this new paradigm but as the industry evolves the skills gap widens and supply chain companies need new, more diverse talent.
This complexity combined with the skills gap in the supply chain industry means there is a greater need for analysts, buyers, engineers, planners, supervisors and managers to support operations and provide the pipeline for future leadership roles. There has been a steady increase in the number of female supply chain graduates but opportunities inside organisations need to be cultivated now to address the shortfall of women in leadership positions.
Female-led Supply Chains Will Improve Collaboration And Drive Growth
Beyond the qualifications required to bridge the gap, collaboration internally and externally is necessary. More collaborative supply chains are beneficial for growth. According to McKinsey effective collaboration can double the growth rate supply chain companies experience. Women in leadership positions at supply chain companies will play a critical role in nurturing collaboration. Greater cooperation across complex and dynamic supply chain ecosystems is needed and requires collaborative thinking and softer skills that men often don’t cultivate, including empathy.
Women are more likely to appreciate the importance of collaboration and their leadership will be fundamental to the transformations needed across the industry. At DP World, we have so many examples of women flourishing throughout our organisation including female leadership representation. Beyond our Global Gender Equality Statement, which aims to promote gender equality in the company, we are a signatory of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. Additionally, we are committed to increasing female representation across the organisation to at least 20% by 2025.
Solidifying these principles and committing to female representation and leadership go beyond inclusion. Ensuring that women succeed and lead organisations will guarantee that we have the collaborative skillsets in place alongside the complex organisational and technological skills to move the industry forward.