In 2022, women account for 19% of C-level positions in the average supply chain organisation, up from 15% in 2021, according to a survey by Gartner and Awesom.

However, women comprise 21% of VP-level roles, a decrease from 23% last year, and 39% of the total supply chain workforce are women, down from 41% in 2021.

“Chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) remain committed to gender diversity, but this survey suggests that they will need to double-down on goal setting, leadership inclusion and career-pathing for women,” says Caroline Chumakov, senior principal analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. “Compared to the last year, representation of women in supply chain has improved at the first-line manager/supervisor, senior manager and director levels of the supply chain organization, as well as at the senior-most level: the C-suite.”

The Women in Supply Chain survey was conducted online from 24 February through 28 March 2022, among 116 respondents primarily in North America. Of the 116 respondents, 85 were end-user organisations with internal supply chains, and 31 were supply chain business services and solutions. Organisations also had to have a minimum of $100-million in annual revenue.

There is a relationship between organisational size and purposeful goal setting which is driving improved representation of women in supply chain. Nearly 50% of medium and large organisations ($100-million to $5-billion) have no objectives to increase the number of women leaders in their supply chain.

However, 83% of the largest, global organisations (more than $5-billion) have a stated objective to improve representation of women in leadership and 38% have incorporated formal targets that appear on management scorecards.

“Global organisations have better pipelines and better representation of women underrepresented races and ethnicities,” says Chumakov. “They are also significantly more likely to have these women in a director position than medium or large organisations.”

The Great Resignation of Midcareer Women

Supply chain leaders who have seen improvements in gender-balanced representation in their organisation should not become complacent in their efforts. Forty-three percent of supply chain leaders say the pandemic has had a net negative impact in the retention and progression of women in supply chain organisations over the past year.

This is a significant uptick compared to the 2021 survey, where only 11% said there was a negative impact. Over half of end-user organisations state retaining midcareer women is an increasing challenge, with an additional 19% indicating it is a significant challenge.

According to end-user respondents, the top reason that midcareer women are leaving is because they lack career or advancement opportunities – an increase from last year’s responses. The fastest-climbing response is that women are seeking greater or more competitive compensation, coming in at second place with 43% of responses, up from 24% of responses in 2021.

Financial implications remain largely unaddressed by supply chain organisations. Only half have a targeted initiative focused on improving benefit offerings for women or closing the pay gap. Among those end-user organisations who say it is an objective, 27% report that they have a specific plan to close the gender pay gap.

“While 14% of end-user organisations stated they’ve already achieved pay equity, it is concerning that 59% of respondents have no action plan to close the gap. In today’s hypercompetitive labor market where women are increasingly seeking out pay increases and ethical employers, these data points reveal a hidden attraction and retention risk,” Chumakov concludes.