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How to Recruit More Women into Supply Chain Management

Posted on February 2020 By Olivia McNeilis

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​It’s not news that supply chain has a diversity problem. What makes it all the more pressing is the compound impact caused by a mounting talent crisis. Though increased attention has been drawn to both issues, our recently published study reveals that the need for progress remains. When companies go to market to recruit, their processes are turning off many female candidates–who form a significant part of the candidate pool that they can ill-afford to shrink further. Our latest research has found that almost half of respondents have withdrawn from a job search because they experienced gender bias during the hiring company’s recruitment process.

While the top reason for women withdrawing was because of gender-biased comments made by the hiring manager, the second and third were a lack of diversity at the hiring company’s leadership level–including the management team and the board. This shows that representation matters to female job seekers.

“Perception is everything. This study shows that companies have a huge opportunity cost from a lack of gender diversity. While most are not consciously biased, their leadership orientation is turning off women from staying in the process–which in turn will only further the problem,” says Matthew Wood, director of DSJ Global, Europe. “In an environment where competition for supply chain talent has never been greater, companies should be addressing this imbalance to attract more female talent. In the short term, they need to find a way to communicate that they share and value an inclusive work culture. This will help alleviate any concerns from female candidates that the hiring company holds any biases and reduce drop-outs.”

Women who said they had withdrawn from the process identified this as a long-term obstacle for solving supply chain’s diversity problem; particularly in leadership roles. Less than four percent identified a lack of qualified women at entry-level as the main challenge to increasing gender diversity. Rather, they said that gender-biased cultural values, leadership orientation and behaviours within supply chain needed to be overcome.

In a 2019 webinar hosted by DSJ Global, Antoinette Irvine, the vice president of human resources for Unilever’s global supply chain, expressed a similar view, “My experience has been is that if you just focus on the targets and you don’t work on the culture, you end up having a lot of women leaving your organization because you aren’t making them feel included."

“Within the context of our supply chain, the main challenge was changing our leaders mindsets to understand unconscious bias and to change the lack of understanding in bringing in diverse, female talent,” said Antoinette Irvine. “Once you have those senior leaders buying into what it’s like to be judged on the basis of whether you are a man or a woman, then they lead for the change themselves.

Over the last four years, Unilever has radically improved the diversity of their supply chain workforce, all the way from procurement through to manufacturing and factor managers. Due to a balanced intake of new hires and internal promotions, Unilever increased their senior management level from 33.% female in 2016 to 38.3% in 2019. As part of their diverse talent strategy, Unilever found that this two-pronged approach was responsible for improving female representation–mirroring the findings of Gartner’s latest study of women in supply chain. “Recruitment and integrated pipeline planning were the two initiatives that caused the most change for Unilever,” commented Antoinette Irvine.

As supply chains continue to grow mind-boggling complex, women will need to play an equal role in the future of its workforce. This will only be possible if companies across supply chain invest in building an inclusive workplace and attracting more women. Understanding why women exit from the recruitment process is the first step. Download DSJ Global’s latest report to discover the full picture.