Empowering Women in Supply Chain: Fireside Chat with Marina Mayer
Besides adopting new technological innovations to improve processes, embracing diversity has been a key solution to issues. A report by McKinsey & Company says that companies that prioritize gender diversity are 25% more likely to achieve positive financial outcomes.
Women play a vital role in the supply chain. The inclusion of diverse women’s perspectives can lead to open-mindedness about adopting cutting-edge technologies that adapt to changing regulations and industry trends. Survey shows that 73% of supply chain organizations have diversity, equity, and inclusion goals that develop, train, and advance women in the industry.
Marina Mayer, editor-in-chief of Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive, co-founded the Women in Supply Chain Forum, which brings together men and women worldwide to discuss challenges, opportunities, and successes in the supply chain arena.
We talked to Mayer about her journey in the supply chain, her goals, and the reasons behind the inception of the Women in Supply Chain Forum.
Encouraging Women to be in the Supply Chain Industry
For a long time, the supply chain industry has been predominantly male, challenging women to excel in leadership roles. Nonetheless, women are now defying stereotypes and achieving success in the industry. A study by AWESOME and Gartner shows that since 2021, women comprise 41% of the workforce in the supply chain, compared to the past years when women were much more underrepresented in the industry.
Mayer hopes that more women will thrive in the supply chain because they have much to bring to the table. The industry is also trying to get more women interested in the supply chain. Many organizations have partnered with universities, colleges, and high schools to build programs to educate young people about the industry.
“We founded the Supply Chain Learning Center wherein we help the younger folks understand that they can be a finance major and an accountant but work for a supply chain company. The industry has engineering, software, human resources, and sales roles. There’s more to the logistics space than just truck drivers,” Mayer explains.
Women in Supply Chain Award
Marina also co-founded The Women in Supply Chain Award, where she highlights women in the industry. They launched the award in 2020, starting with 110 submissions, and it is now in its fourth year, with over 400 nominations and 382 winners.
“What I love about this award is that it’s not just women nominating other women. It’s men nominating women. It’s women nominating themselves. It’s fantastic.
When I first started out and would go to these trade shows and conferences and look around the room, I was probably one or two women in the entire room of like a hundred men. So I started asking around, and upon launching the Awards, it received grave immediate reviews. There are many women in supply chain programs, but there’s nothing that gives them an award for their achievement. In fact, women have tracked me down and said that the award changed their lives and advanced their careers,” Mayer says.
The Women in Supply Chain Award is open to all women in the industry worldwide, not just in the United States.
Women in Supply Chain Forum
From there, Mayer and her company launched the Women in Supply Chain Forum, an in-person event designed to provide networking opportunities and a safe space for women.
“We talk about the company culture problem and initiatives: the real hot-button issues, and then we work together to determine what we need to do next. My goal was to make sure that people know that we’re all in this together–that we’re better as a team–when we work together and support each other versus going against each other,” Mayer shares.
“We have a lot of men coming to the event this year, which I’m very excited about because they’re as much a part of this as women,” she adds.
Image by zinkevych on Freepik
The Women in Supply Chain Forum helps women navigate the industry. Mayer talks about an inspiring experience she had with one of their attendees.
“Last year, we discussed company culture and opened the floor to the attendees. One woman shared that a fellow female coworker was harassing her, and she had trouble finding an ally in her job. About 70 women in the forum helped her.
After that session closed, I approached her and said that if her current company doesn’t listen to her, then that’s not the company she should work for. Three months later, she messaged me on LinkedIn, saying she was thankful. She listened to my advice and got a new job that’s a lot better than her previous one.
That has been my goal since we started the Forum. It’s getting the conversation started. It’s letting people put it in their brains that they should be cared for and are worth it. Their ability to change the world and supply chain space matter. That’s an inspiration and why we keep doing what we’re doing.”
Mayer partnered with Sarah Barnes-Humphrey from Let’s Talk Supply Chain. Sarah was the Women in Supply Chain Forum’s keynote speaker last year, and the two have become industry friends. They constantly mentor one another.
Three actionable advice
When asked what advice she can give to women in the supply chain, she says:
“First is to ask a lot of questions. The second is to find a mentor. Find somebody in the industry that you can trust and lean on.
I never had mentors initially and did everything on my own. It’s not a fun place to be. It wasn’t until I got to my current company that I found some mentors in the industry. They don’t work in my company, but they’re helping me navigate the supply chain.
Finally, don’t let “No” stop you because one “No” doesn’t mean “no” for everything. Getting a “no” doesn’t mean you’re not worth it. It only means that that situation is not for you or it’s not yet the right time. And that might be a blessing.
Keep going. Keep trying. Keep working hard. Keep asking the questions. Learn, absorb everything, and then just take it and run with it. “