APICS is the premier professional association for supply chain management.

Gender Balance to Create Opportunities

by APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE |   2014 | 0 | 0

It’s time. According to the Harvard Business Review blog network, women make the majority of consumer goods buying decisions; make up the majority of graduates from the world’s universities; and, if they are younger than 30, probably make more money than their male counterparts. So, it’s time to consider why women aren’t represented in business—especially at the executive level.

In her blog post “It’s Time for a New Discussion on ‘Women in Leadership,’” Avivah Wittenberg-Cox examines how the real solution to this deficit must move beyond the basic principles of fairness and equality. “It is time to shift the discussion away from a lingering women’s problem or an issue of equality and instead focus on this as a massive business opportunity,” she writes. The shift should move away from what is wrong with women who don’t make it to the top and toward “what is right with companies and leaders that do build gender-balanced leadership teams—and tap into the resulting competitive edge.”

Wittenberg-Cox cites studies that show that gender balance produces better and more sustainable performance, and companies with gender-balanced leadership outperform those with less. While these studies are linked right from her blog post, Wittenberg-Cox recommends that leaders move ahead of trends instead of following them. She calls for research that identifies the leadership competencies that enable certain decision makers to build gender-balanced workforces. She says those companies and decision makers that don’t have gender-balance also need to be held accountable.

Wittenberg-Cox, who is a consultant and author, makes two recommendations:

  • Stop creating internal, women-only networks and programs. Instead, start mixed-gender initiatives with the goal of balancing management, not promoting women.
  • Outside stakeholders and industry groups should measure and advocate for what the best companies do.

“Reframe, rebrand, and make leaders accountable for adopting to 21st century realities,” Wittenberg-Cox writes. “This is the work that now lies ahead.”

Women in supply chain

Supply chain and operations management professions also benefit from gender balance in leadership, but examples can be hard to find. Not so hard to find is the wage gap, which exists among all professions in the field. According to the summer 2013 findings of the APICS Operations Management Salary and Employment Report, across all respondents, the average total compensation for women is $85,844 compared to $105,569 for men. 

Consider the perspective shared by Janet Poeschl, CPIM, CIRM, CSCP, in the May/June 2013 APICS magazine article “Industry Leading Women.” Poeschl said that, at her previous employers, there were always fewer women at the manager and executive levels. At the vice president level, there were none. Now, Poeschl herself is a vice president of supply chain for Pacific Natural Foods. She also writes the “Executive View” department for APICS magazine and was a panelist for the APICS 2013 session “Women in Supply Chain.”


APICS relies on the leadership of Poeschl and other women like her to help move supply chain and operations management forward in this area. We will explore the topic of women in supply chain even further at APICS 2014, which will feature a variety of content for professionals of either gender who want to advance their careers, enhance their business processes, and prepare for the future. Among its many offerings, the conference will include one professional development learning path geared at newcomers to the field and another learning path with programming to help professionals prepare for greater leadership roles. APICS 2014 registration opens in May. Stay tuned for more event updates.

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