Gender dynamics in business have changed quite drastically over the last several decades, with more and more women gaining ownership in top organizations. However, women are still in short supply in a number of industries and disciplines, notably in Supply Chain. There is a high demand for talented women in Supply Chain and Procurement, so whether you’re looking to hire experienced female leaders or to further develop those in your own organization, you will have to put in the work required to attract and retain these employees.
There is no simple formula for attracting and developing diverse talent, but there are many factors that can contribute to your success if you’ve made it a priority. While we primarily focus on women in the Supply Chain function here, the following are all elements in the quest to build a diverse talent pool throughout all functions:
Start From the Top
If you are taking an active approach to recruiting and retaining women within your organization, you may do well to start at the top. As potential candidates consider your organization and career opportunities, they will be paying attention to the diversity of your leadership – and you should, too. One way that companies can show their commitment to growing and attracting female talent is through representation in leadership. Obviously it won’t be possible to overhaul your leadership group overnight, but if you make diversity a priority in your recruitment strategies, it will have a positive impact on your ability to draw top female talent into the highest levels of your organization, which will in turn attract high-potential female employees at all levels.
One of the best retention methods for keeping women in your departments – as well as grooming them for the next step in their career – is to provide them with a strong example that they can follow. Especially in a traditionally male-dominated role, it can be useful for female employees to have a guide as they navigate throughout your organization.
Those who are assigned to mentor must be willing to take the time to share their knowledge. Good mentors come prepared to meetings and provide valuable feedback to a junior employee’s concerns and questions. They are honest, but can deliver their message with diplomacy. By providing the women in your company with access to a strong and engaging leader, you help to keep them actively engaged in their roles.
Training is another critical item in your tool belt when it comes to helping the women in your organization to excel in their careers. Half of the battle is simply making sure that your employees are aware of what training is available to them. Ensure that you provide easy access to the training opportunities you provide, and that mentors and leaders are recommending appropriate training based on each employee’s specific developmental plan. Sometimes that training may be on a technical topic, such as procurement methods in China, or it could be a soft skill, like how to provide critical feedback.
Of course, the Institute for Supplier Management (ISM), Institute for Business Forecasting (IBF), APICS, and others do a phenomenal job providing networking, training, and leadership methodologies. If you don’t have the bandwidth internally to offer ongoing training, support your talent in following through with these types of organizations.
Work-life balance is yet another way to keep top female talent moving through your pipeline and into top positions. Research has shown time and time again that this element is very important to employees – and in particular to women. Companies that offer flexibility in hours and offer a culture that supports both professional and family lives, do far better retaining their female talent.
Partner with the Right Associations
Throughout the US there are organizations dedicated specifically to the development of women in the fields of Procurement and Supply Chain. Some of these organizations are national, others are regional or even localized to just one city/metro area. These associations are fantastic resources for both finding and growing female supply chain talent within your business. Associations such as AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain, Operations, Management, and Education) work on a national scale and host frequent events aimed at promoting the growth of women within the space. Aligning your company with these resources will not only put you in touch with the right talent, it will give you access to the discourse going on in the Supply Chain world as it relates to developing women in their careers. This information can be priceless to an organization seeking to grow their own female leaders.
Female employees increase the diversity of your workforce and bring a different perspective to solving problems. By creating a gender-balanced workforce, you enable your organization to better tackle challenges and gain access to more of the talent pool. The strategies presented above can help you increase the number of women in all of your departments – including historically male-dominated segment like Supply Chain. This can revitalize your business and offer new solutions to recurring or persistent issues.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask here.