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ON GENDER AND CAREER CHOICES
As I was growing up, I was encouraged to be the best I could be and nothing was off limits because of gender. As a high school athlete, I developed a competitive spirit but also learned a lot about teamwork. Those lessons have served me well throughout my career.
I was also a bit of a science and math nerd – always fascinated with learning more and understanding how things (and the world) work – by the way, a never-ending adventure! As I have counseled young women about the great things about a career in supply chain, I have reflected on the incredible opportunities to learn about how your business works, not only internally, but also within the larger ecosystem within which it operates. This was a natural fit for me and is a big part of why my career journey has been such a wonderful experience.
My philosophy has been “Never say no to an opportunity to learn and expand your role.” Often, women hesitate to take on new opportunities if they do not feel 100% prepared for the role, whereas men tend to be willing to jump into new roles and have confidence they will learn what they need to know.
ON GENDER AND SUCCESS IN THE LOGISTICS INDUSTRY
First and foremost, the focus must be on getting the job done, delivering value to customers and achieving business results. While I have recognized that gender plays a role in how I am perceived (pushy broad comes to mind), it is important to stay focused on how you can contribute to achieving business objectives.
Establishing credibility and trust is critical – if people know they can trust you and they have your support, differences of perspective can be openly shared and that diversity of thought becomes a powerful tool. And I have always tried to be a collaborative colleague and to recognize and give credit to those who I have worked with.
And I always try to have fun as part of the work process – humor is a great way to diffuse tense situations and makes work a lot more fun.
ON FEMALE REPRESENTATION IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN INDUSTRY
A big problem is the lack of female role models at senior levels of leadership. Our goal is to leverage the power of this network of senior leaders to advance women’s leadership in supply chain. We are working to accomplish this in several ways.
Our signature event, the annual AWESOME Symposium, gives senior leaders a chance to network with and learn from each other and to gain new perspectives about the strengths women bring to an organization, the challenges they face, and things they can do to make a difference for themselves and for other women in their organizations. We are also working through the AWESOME
Legendary Leadership award, established in 2014 to bring more visibility and recognition to outstanding women leaders.
The Awesome Excellence in Education Scholarships, supports young women who are majoring in supply chain management to attend the annual CSCMP conference as well as the AWESOME Symposium. The exposure they get to successful leaders and the connections they make give them new insights about the possibilities of a career in supply chain and role models they can look to as they embark on their careers.
We are also collaborating with other organizations to broaden our reach and strengthen our impact. Through our “Powered by AWESOME” initiatives, we are connecting women to panelist and speaker roles at industry conferences, universities and businesses to raise the visibility of successful women at these important supply chain venues.
The biggest challenge is finding and connecting with the senior women leaders we do not know. We have continued to build the network one connection at a time, through our own personal connections and through our collaboration with other organizations. And the network has grown in an amazing way over the 3 years since AWESOME was founded.
ON WORK-LIFE BALANCE
This comes up frequently as one of the big issues women face today. And of course, the challenges are different at different stages of your life and career. It is especially difficult to balance work and family when you have young children. The most important thing is that you have a supportive partner who encourages you to achieve your potential, understands that some sacrifices are required, and shares in the family and household responsibilities.
At this point, my children are grown and have families of their own and my husband is retired. In this stage, he has taken on more of the household responsibilities, and balancing work and personal life is much easier. During the more difficult phases, I did not have role models to look to or mentors to give me advice or to help me see that the challenges would not always be the same. Successful women leaders in senior leadership roles can be an important part of a support network that can help emerging leaders be successful.
ON WOMEN AND LEADERSHIP IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN INDUSTRY
Supply chain leaders need to do a better job of marketing our profession and encouraging young professionals to choose to pursue a career in supply chain. Career in supply chain gives the opportunity to learn about the business from end-to-end, including outside the four walls of your company with customers and suppliers; you gain a global perspective and have the opportunity to work across different countries and cultures; supply chain roles are action-oriented and you can see the results of what you do every day; and you know you are making a difference for your customers and your company.
Efforts to increase women’s progression to senior positions need to focus on both institutional barriers and individual barriers. From an institutional standpoint, the most critical element is to recognize and focus on the importance of diverse leadership from a business perspective. Establishing a culture that values diversity is important and helping leaders understand and eliminate the unconscious bias that still exists is critical.
From an individual perspective, provide opportunities for women to connect with other women and develop a support network – both internally and externally. Encourage advocacy and mentorship from senior leaders and give direct, constructive feedback that encourages women to take on new opportunities to develop their leadership skills and cross-functional expertise. And recognizing the challenges of work-life balance, provide flexibility when jobs permit and encourage both men and women to take advantage of flexible options – work-life balance is no longer just a “women’s” issue.
ON RISK TAKING
Early in my career, I was offered the opportunity to move from a technical role to a planning manager role in a new location. As a single mother of two boys, the prospect of moving to a location where I knew no one was daunting to say the least. And the role was one for which I had limited background or experience. I can still recall how scary that was.
A number of moves followed that first one, but the one that stands out as most risky was when I left DuPont and moved to India to work for Reliance Industries. I had very limited experience outside the US at that time, and none in India. I had spent 15 years with DuPont and Reliance was a growing company, but relatively unknown outside of India at that time. Scary. But, it turned out to be an opportunity of a lifetime. I loved having the opportunity to live in and learn about a different culture and country. That experience is one I encourage everyone to pursue. The challenges are significant, but you learn a great deal about yourself and about doing business globally. Because of that experience, much of my academic career was focused on global supply chain and international logistics and I was able to lead a number of study abroad experiences, taking students to India, China, and South America to give them a global perspective.
ON FUTURE CHALLENGES
My goal is to see AWESOME continue to grow and be successful – to make a significant difference for women’s leadership in supply chain. Success for AWESOME will include the following:
• Women advancing their careers – in senior supply chain leadership positions and the C-suite
• Emerging leaders developing faster into senior leader roles
• More women entering supply chain careers and fewer are opting out
• Women viewed as influential in the industry and sought out for their leadership and business skills
• AWESOME recognized and valued for our contribution to advancing women leaders in supply chain
WHAT ARE THE THREE THINGS THAT YOU WILL NOT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT?
It is eye-opening and indicative of the world we live in today when I think about my answer to this question. When I began my career we still lived in a paper world. When I moved to India, communications with the family were via fax. Yet technology has made the world such a smaller place and is a key enabler that makes supply chain management such a critical business process today. So I suspect I am not unusual when I say I would not leave home without my computer, ipad and iphone. Between the 3 I can capture and share images, photos, and information, I have access to all the information I need, and can connect with anyone anywhere.
Click here to download your free copy of the Female Leadership in Our Time