A New Approach is Needed to Increase Women in the Supply Chain C-Suite and to Close the Talent Gap

Hiring qualified talent is one of the single biggest challenges facing supply chain companies.[1] The demand for supply chain professionals exceeds supply by six to one.[2] Sixty-five percent of respondents in MHI’s 2019 survey rated hiring qualified workers as extremely or very challenging. Ninety-one percent rated it as at least somewhat challenging.

Survey respondents identified the top critical skills needed to compete in the next-generation supply chain: analytics/modeling/visualization (40 percent), strategic problem solving (37 percent), and general business acumen and cross-functional knowledge (31 percent). These results support previous research. Richard E. Crandall, PhD, CFPIM, CIRM, CSCP, professor emeritus at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and the lead author of “Principles of Supply Chain Management” points to soft skills and leadership acumen as skill and talent gaps with the industry:[3]

“Supply chain professionals also need softer skills such as change management, collaborative problem resolution and assimilation.”


This changing dynamic and the high demand for qualified supply chain professionals creates an opportunity for diverse talent to thrive. In part, because the rules are forming now. In emerging fields such as augmented reality, virtual reality, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machine intelligence, and yes - supply chain, the leaders are just beginning to appear.  Because of this, there aren’t mental models of who can be successful as the role models and leaders are just emerging.

Extrapolating this, we find there is a need for innovation when it comes to tackling the racial and gender divide in leadership, and in the workforce as a whole. We need to break away from the traditional model of hiring, and the traditional model of filling and nurturing the talent pipeline.

Looking back at the skills needed to compete in the next generation of the supply chain and the characteristics identified for key roles in building a Center of Excellence (CoE), there is an opportunity to increase gender diversity in the supply chain workforce and in the C-suite. We need to rethink traditional hiring strategies for the supply chain and rethink hiring leadership.


Women in the Supply Chain

Gartner’s fourth annual “Women in Supply Chain Survey” showed modest improvements in women’s overall participation in the supply chain workforce and improvements in representation in most management and leadership roles.[4]

On average, women make up 39 percent of the supply chain workforce, up from 36 percent in 2016. Increases have also been realized at the first-line manager level, middle manager, and director levels. Most notable is at the VP level, the percentage of women jumped from 20 percent in 2018 to 28 percent in 2019.

While these figures are encouraging, what is not encouraging are the numbers coming out of the C-suite. In 2016 just 7 percent of women occupied C-suite roles. This increased to 15 percent in 2017, dropped to 14 percent in 2018, and then fell again to 11 percent in 2019.

Increasing the number of women in the supply chain workforce and in leadership roles is important to innovation and to the bottom line.

A 2017 study conducted by McKinsey & Company found gender diversity is correlated with both profitability and value creation. Looking specifically at financial performance and gender diversity of executive teams, the study found the top-quartile of companies on executive-level gender diversity worldwide had a 21 percent likelihood of outperforming their fourth-quartile industry peers on EBIT margin, and they also had a 27 percent likelihood of outperforming fourth-quartile peers on longer-term value creation, as measured using an economic-profit margin.[5]


Project Ascendance

Launched in 2016, Project Ascendance is an on-going research study conducted by Artemis Connection on the racial and gender divide in leadership. The purpose of the study is to gain a better understanding of why and how individuals ascend to high-level and management roles within their industry.

Project Ascendance includes a meta-analysis of research conducted by McKinsey, Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Rotman’s Initiative for Women in Business, and Harvard’s Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and interviews with more than 300 leaders.


Artemis Connection

Artemis Connection is a strategy firm that was born from the belief that real-world problems need real-world solutions, not a presentation. To this end, Artemis puts the end-customer at the center of everything it does. We go beyond consultancy to build and deliver strategies that you can execute. We work with international, regional and local organizations in healthcare, the nonprofit sector, education, hi-tech, media and entertainment, government, and private equity and search funds.



[1] MHO. The 2019 MHI Annual Industry Report - Elevating Supply Chain. 2019. https://www.mhi.org/publications/report

[2] Richard E. Crandall. The Hunt for Supply Chain Talent. APICS Magazine. 2018.


[3] Richard E. Crandall. The Hunt for Supply Chain Talent. APICS Magazine. 2018.


[4] Awesome. Gartner. 2019 Women in Supply Chain Research. May 2, 2019. https://www.awesomeleaders.org/research/awesomegartner-research/

[5] Vivian Hunt, Lareina Yee, Sara Prince, and Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle. Delivering through Diversity.McKinsey & Company. January 2018.


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