Opinion: Why there are so few female supply chain and logistics leaders

As director of JPS Supply Chain — a recruitment consultancy company specializing in logistics, procurement and supply chain — Jennifer Swain interviews many more men for logistics roles than women.

Ms. Swain highlights the lack of women holding leadership roles in the industry and shares four reasons for this trend in a blog post on LinkedIn.

1. The lingering perception of "male" and "female" jobs. While the stereotype of little girls becoming nurses and boys becoming engineers is mostly outdated, Ms. Swain believes fragments of this perception still exist in some businesses.

"Logistics definitely comes under the former stereotype of being a "man's job" and still to this day this view point can be found in the culture of some warehouse operations," she wrote. "I have witnessed on occasion women with more talent being overlooked for opportunities with an extreme case where one company owner [asked me] how old the [female candidate] was as he was concerned she was going … have children in the next 12 months and he would have to pay maternity."

2. It's a numbers game. Ms. Swain notes far fewer women than men enter the logistics and supply chain industry.

"[I]t stands to reason that if the ratio of men to women in entry-level positions is heavily-weighted to the male of the species, that as you move up the career ladder this ratio will still apply."

3. Women as mothers. Ms. Swain said she worked with several male counterparts early in her career who reached a director role faster than her not because they had more skills, but because they hadn't taken two years out of their career to start a family.

"Yes, there are some families where the woman goes out to work and the stay-at-home parent is the dad, but on the whole it is the mother who puts her career to one side in order to raise a family," Ms. Swain wrote. "There is nothing wrong with that but it does play a part as to why there are less women at senior level in any industry, not just supply chain and logistics."

4. Lack of applications. Ms. Swain said some culpability rests on the women who are in logistics and supply chain careers but don't apply for leadership roles.

"[O]ut of the 40 or so jobs I posted in one year, I received four applications [from women] … when I advertise on any [social media] platform, the ratio of male to female applicants can be as much as 40:1," she wrote. "A man will look at a job specification and highlight all the things he can do and apply for the role on the basis that he may tick 70 percent of the boxes. A woman will look at the same job description and look at all the things they cannot do and not apply because they don't tick 30 percent of the boxes."

To view the full article, along with Ms. Cain's suggestions for how to increase the amount of women in supply chain leadership roles, click here.

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