Female Leaders in Supply Chain

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There has been a lot of buzz about women over the past couple of weeks because it is women’s history month.  In fact I was asked to provide some input to Supply & Demand Chain Magazine on the role of women in Supply Chain which ended up placing me on a list of female supply chain leaders.   I was encouraged to see 28 women being honored BUT I know that there are MANY more out there – many of which are my amazing female clients that I have had the honor to work with.

You can read the article here.

I thought I would share a few of the  questions I was asked (specifically about women) and my responses since what was printed edited out what I thought was going to be the crux of article – women’s role / value in Supply Chain.

Question 1.  Some folks in the industry may claim that the glass ceiling has shattered, so to speak, with the number of female leaders really positioning the supply chain for global growth. What do you believe helped enable this? An increase in gender diversity? Increased women studies at educations? A better female understanding of certain market factors in the supply chain? Other?

 I do recognize there are more women leaders in Supply Chain than ever before, which is great. I believe this is due to a number of factors. First, I think higher education is doing a better job at selling the opportunities that are available within Supply Chain. Second, I believe that many women start out in a different discipline such as accounting, finance or human resources and either choose to move to a role in Supply Chain or are hand- picked because of the skill set (change management, collaboration, problem solving) that is required to be successful. Having the ability to bring people together and work collaboratively within an organization is the “secret sauce” to being successful in this discipline and I believe that women are more collaborative by nature. Third, I personally believe that having a career in Supply Chain is exciting, diverse and fast pace which is why I was drawn to it.

 Question 2.   Are there ways you think we can better position women for economic decision-making positions in the supply chain?

 I believe it is up to those women that are currently playing leadership roles in the Supply Chain profession to encourage, coach and mentor other women to attain leadership positions. I personally do this by mentoring my female clients and helping to recruit capable young women on behalf of clients. In addition, women need to actively seek opportunities within their companies to broaden their experience, be part of cross functional teams and take on leadership assignments. Also, getting involved in industry associations is a great way to network and form relationships that may open up future opportunities. I am really excited to see more women entering Supply Chain because I believe it is good for our discipline.

I would like to take this opportunity to mention a few of the women, both experienced and just starting out that have taught me why we need MORE capable women in Supply Chain.  I have chosen just a few to highlight and contrast some of the strong women that represent our discipline.

Julie Heins, Director of Procurement for Seneca Resources.   Julie drove sourcing, procurement and supply chain excellence for Ameren before leading the Sourcing & Procurement function for Seneca.  Julie’s strength is in leading and nurturing her staff in addition to building strong internal and external relationships.   Julie is a client and has become a friend AND is one of the most competent Supply Chain leaders I have ever met. 

Gerd Raaness, Global Category Manager for FMC Technologies.  Gerd is in an industry (heavy equipment manufacturing for the Oil and Gas industry) where few women dare to tread.  Gerd has played a key role in Supply Chain for FMC when there were NO other women. Gerd has paved the way and been a role model for other women at FMC.

Lily Zamora, Sr. Manager of Strategic Projects in Supply Chain for Peabody Energy.  Lily is that “just starting out” leader in Supply Chain that works harder than anyone else and is not afraid to Lean In (check out the new book by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook).  Lily impressed me by her commitment to move Peabody’s supply chain group toward best in class.  Lily didn’t have the title or the rank but she took on tough assignments to drive the organization forward.

I have many, many more women clients and colleagues that I have had the pleasure to work with and have taught me much about what it means to be a Supply Chain leader.  My thanks and admiration  go out to all of you as we celebrate women this month

 Join in the conversation.   If you have a female supply chain leader you would like to highlight, please send us your comments. . . . . .

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Anne Kohler
Anne has been leading consulting and financial management organizations for over 25 years. She has extensive expertise in Strategic Sourcing, change management, contracting & contract management (both the buy side and sell side) organizational design and supply chain management. Anne has a passion for collaborating and educating her clients while helping them to uncover hidden value in their organizations. In addition, Anne has been named by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as a “Top 100 Provider Pro to Know” every year since 2007 and a 2013 Top Female Supply Chain executive.
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