By Lisa Henthorn
Virtually impenetrable not all that long ago, the “glass ceiling” blocking women from executive-level jobs in the logistics and supply chain industry appears to be shattering.
Though few (if any) people in our industry would argue that our historic gender bias has gone away, the outlook for women is considerably brighter these days than it was when Industry Week made this bleak observation a little over two years ago:
Half of the human population is female. More than half of all university students in the United States are female. Around a third of all MBA students, including those concentrating on supply chain studies, are female. And yet, when (we) did a manual count of top supply chain executives in Fortune 500 companies, we found only 22 women among 320 businesses that had a true supply chain function.
22 out of 320? That’s a definitive “F-minus,” but there’s growing evidence that our industry’s grade on gender equality is improving. Among the most significant signs: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx appointed Michelle Livingstone to a two-year term on the National Freight Advisory Committee.
Livingstone, by the way, is VP of Transportation for Home Depot. As such, she’s on a growing roster of females who hold top-level logistics posts at high-profile companies. The list also includes:
- Ann Ackerson, VP of Worldwide Supply Chain for Dresser-Rand, which recently merged with Siemens
- Shari Boston, VP, Global Supply Chain, at ConvaTec
- Lillian Dukes, VP of Business Operations for Global Customer Support and Services at Spirit AeroSystems
- Sandra Evett, VP, Customer Service & Logistics, at Kraft Foods
- Beth Ford, EVP and Chief Supply Chain and Operations Officer for Land O’ Lakes
- Laurel Junk, VP of Supply Chain Management at Kaiser Permanente
- Debbie Lentz, Chief Supply Chain Officer for Toys “R” Us
- Mary Long, VP of Logistics and Network Planning for Domino’s Pizza
- Susan Pechellio, recently named VP of Global Transportation for Starbucks — and prior to that, VP of Transportation and Supplier Collaboration at Staples
- Kathryn Wengel, Worldwide President of Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain
- Trish Young, VP of North America Supply Chain for Nike.
These executives deserve our applause. And the companies that gave them their respective titles should get a pat on the back, too. Why? If for no other reason, it’s because they decided to break with the “old-boy network” tradition that lingers on in our industry and give leadership roles to the people most qualified to have them. This simply makes good business sense, and in light of our industry’s ominous talent shortage, that’s especially true.
In other words, as we look for answers to the labor shortage, there’s no time like the present to tap the female labor pool.
Lisa Henthorn is a vice president at Eyefreight, a provider of transportation management system technology. Lisa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org