Women in Logistics

There's no doubt that supply chain management and its subset field of logistics are getting a lot of attention. Graduates of logistics and supply chain programs at major US universities have been in demand, and at times in very short supply.

Management recruiters speak of concerns for an experience gap developing as older logistics professionals begin to retire or leave the profession. They point to the fact there are more new graduates coming out of universities with logistics and supply chain degrees, but there is a gap in the middle range of experience in the field. This begs the question, where will the next group of logistics leaders come from?

One answer is, the women in the profession already. Heather Cartwright, CEO of Logixsource Consulting Ltd., speaks of the “underdeveloped resource” of women in logistics. In Canada, where she is based, The Logistics Institute membership of 2,000 professionals includes only 286 women. A general study of logistics career trends conducted for over 25 years by The Ohio State University had reported a steady rise in the number of women making up the respondents to the survey. The most recent version does not include a gender demographic, but the 14% number Cartwright cites for the Canadian group would track pretty closely with the level indicated by past growth trends in the survey results.

For a broad look at the field, the 2007 Career Patterns in Logistics survey conducted by The Ohio State University offers its authors’ most recent insights. The authors, Bernard J. LaLonde, James L. Ginter, and James R. Stock, caution that the study is drawn from Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) members only and this, and the small sample size, doesn’t necessarily suggest the results can be applied to other populations of the profession.

As the fields of logistics and supply chain management advance, more senior executives are sporting “supply chain” in their job title, says the 2007 survey.

Most of the logistics or supply chain professionals’ time is spent managing transportation. Warehousing and general management together equal the amount of time spent on transportation, and after totaling those hours, it leaves less than half their time for other responsibilities.

The education level of logistics and supply chain professionals has also been rising. For the first time, the survey indicated all respondents had at least a bachelor’s degree. Of the total, 55% claimed an advanced degree. The survey didn’t break the degrees down other than to indicate 43% of the respondents said their degree was a Masters of Business Administration.

The general survey indicated median compensation levels for managers were just above $100,000 per year. At the director level, the figure nudged over $150,000. And vice presidents had a median compensation level of $250,000. A separate study, Career Patterns of Women in Logistics, asked some similar questions, but it presents results differently. On the education front, 14% of women were not degreed. However, the number of advanced degrees and undergraduate degrees came in about equal at 40% and 39%, respectively. The Women in Logistics survey asked about professional certification, and 8% of respondents reported having completed a certification program.

Salaries were reported differently in the survey of women. The salary profile broke each title level into four quartiles and reported medians for each quartile. Averaging those numbers together without the underlying data used in the report gives the appearance that women are lagging men in compensation. That is, however, a casual observation since there are a vast number of variables between the two surveys’ methodologies and reporting.

The opposite problem occurs when trying to compare data on travel. The more general survey breaks domestic and international travel into quartiles while the survey of women presents straight percentages. Thus, 35% of women report spending 14 days or less on business trips; 28% travel 15 to 30 days a year; 10% report 31 to 45 days of travel per year; and 27% are on the road more than 45 days a year. The study does not indicate days spent on international travel, but does show the number of international trips for women. Over half the women don’t travel internationally (53%), and 32% travel abroad only one or two times a year.

Angelina Burgos-Dominguez reported on the Women in Logistics survey, noting that from her experience in the field, the demanding environment makes it difficult to attract the best among new professionals. Some of the challenges women reported are universal for the profession. Burgos-Dominguez said 30% of women responded that among the things they like least about the profession is the lack of management understanding of logistics. Nearly two thirds (64%) thought their companies were ready for globalization, with 37% saying they have tier one suppliers internationally and 13% have tier two suppliers who are located internationally.

On the positive side, women said they liked the opportunity logistics offers for them to use the different areas of expertise they had acquired. They felt their dedication, hard work, and determination were advantages that helped their careers. Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to understand the big-picture perspective were also strengths.

As if to amplify the survey result and add to Burgos-Dominguez’s own varied background, Heather Cartwright’s early work experience included part-time jobs from the age of 15 (she claims 24 jobs between the ages of 15 and 23). At one high-tech company, she worked in human resources, marketing, and accounting before she lost her job and was given 30 days to find another in the organization. She chose shop-floor materials management, her first real step into logistics. Working at that job, she decided to return to school for her degree.

Later, Cartwright worked for a consumer products company and then in consulting (one position in a very structured environment, another in a more wide-open, entrepreneurial setting). She is now the head of her own consulting company.

As she describes her own list of the challenges and success factors for women, her experiences appear to be far from unique.

In one of her corporate jobs, there were only two women senior to her in the organization. Most of the men she worked with were 10 years older than her. “I thought I looked like that, but I didn’t,” she said, referring to her male counterparts’ perspective. “Even though I came with a similar mindset, sometimes I wasn’t seeing things the same way.” It was challenging to figure out what the rules were, she said.

While women tended not to travel as much as their male counterparts, they also didn’t network. She described how it can be uncomfortable for both sides to initiate a conversation, but she says, men should make an effort to open that dialogue. In the end, results are a key success factor, but education will help. Inferred in Cartwright’s comment is the need for education that can result from good mentoring, a subject which Deborah Hurst, associate professor at Athabasca University, discusses.

Women report more conservatively than men on every category of job satisfaction, says Hurst. In particular, the responses on opportunities for advancement weren’t good, she says. Hurst surveyed women under an initiative to expand a program that established Women In Logistics (WIL). Looking for areas where WIL can help women in their logistics careers, Hurst says the responses showed a need for more instruction on leadership, communications, team building, and project management. Job-related issues for women surveyed included concerns over making mistakes.

Key enablers included personal determination, but the women also wanted to see more education opportunities and the ability to work through other people. But at the top of the list was mentoring.

As other women commented at a session presenting the Women’s Career Patterns study at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ annual conference, not having access to mentors early in your career makes advancement very difficult.

A small group of women in Canada have launched the Women In Logistics initiative to help women develop in their logistics careers and to bring more women into the profession.

The logistics profession faces a number of challenges. Some of the macro issues are being dealt with as more companies recognize the importance of effective global supply chain management. The personnel issue impinges at every level and in numerous facets of logistics and supply chain management--from the critical shortage of truck drivers to the experience gap developing in logistics management. Diversity is a key to filling that gap.

The Women In Logistics Initiative

According to its own Web site (www.womeninlogistics.com), in June 2006 “The Logistics Institute’s Board of Directors enthusiastically agreed to the creation of a Task Force which will explore options and create opportunities to highlight and publicize the contributions of women currently in the Canadian supply chain logistics profession.”

The Women In Logistics Task Force has embarked on an effort to develop a strategy to support recruitment of women into supply chain logistics and to assist women in developing themselves as supply chain logistics professionals.

Among the objectives established in this initial effort is one to build awareness of women as an underdeveloped talent pool. But further, it also seeks to assist women in accessing a range of professional development tools and opportunities. The small group of volunteers are trying to establish a “community” which can help to provide these resources as well as developing and presenting programs to foster a network of professional support for women already in the industry.

For further information, visit www.womeninlogistics.com or contact Karyn Milne, The Logistics Institute, 160 John St., Suite 200, Toronto, ON M5V 2E5, Canada. Phone (416) 363-3005, ext. 11. Or, e-mail [email protected]

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