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Celebrating and Encouraging Women in Supply Chain

APICS CEO

Friday April 13, 2018


Since 2012, The Manufacturing Institute has celebrated women in manufacturing with its STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Awards, which recognize women in manufacturing who exemplify leadership within their companies. Tuesday marked the sixth STEP Ahead Awards, and, once again, APICS was proud to co-sponsor the event.

STEP Ahead is a national honor that identifies the best women in manufacturing, including supply chain, and further encourages women to mentor and support the next generation of female talent to pursue these promising and fulfilling careers. Tuesday night, STEP Ahead recognized 100 Honorees and 30 Emerging Leaders at a gala in Washington, D.C.

Seema Pajula, 2018 chair of STEP Ahead, is the vice chairman and U.S. consumer and industrial products leader for Deloitte and Touche. She challenged event attendees to do five things: be passionate about what you do, be bold, be innovative, be adaptive and consider the legacy you want to leave. Pajula asked the audience, “Who will be sitting in these chairs one year from now?”

According to "Women in Manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters," women constitute one of the largest pools of untapped talent. While women make up about 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, they equal only about 29 percent of manufacturing’s workforce. The study, conducted by APICS, The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, highlights seven ways companies can forge ahead and create a path for women in manufacturing. These suggestions include starting at the top and leading by example and promoting professional development.

“Never underestimate the power of your example,” urged Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, of which The Manufacturing Institute is an affiliate. “Today, manufacturing is a confident industry, and this is the face of manufacturing I want people to see every day.”

As I talk to APICS members and partners, they frequently express their concern about supply chain talent – now and for the future. Attracting future generations of women and girls into dynamic supply chain careers is one of the main reason we co-sponsor STEP Ahead, and our efforts are meaningful. Thus far, 672 women have been honored with STEP Ahead awards for making a difference in their companies and their communities. In addition, STEP Ahead has reached 300,000 individuals – from peers to school-age children. 

Timmons said something that I think of often when I am describing supply chain: “Manufacturing is not just a paycheck, but it’s the satisfaction of creating something that matters.” How do you, as supply chain professionals, express the promise of this field to women and future generations? It can be challenging, but I want to point you to some important APICS resources. First, APICS partnered with The Manufacturing Institute to create "LEAD: Becoming an Impactful Voice to the Next Generation of Talent," a toolkit to increase awareness and create ambassadors for manufacturing and supply chain careers for women. Next, attend the Women in Supply Chain Forum, Sunday, September 30, in conjunction with APICS 2018 in Chicago. During the forum, you will hear from supply chain and diversity trailblazers, who will share their insights regarding the new faces of supply chain leadership and the future of the field. You can read insights from last year’s forum on the APICS Thinking Supply Chain Blog. Register for APICS 2018 at apics.org/conference.

On a final note, APICS continues its support of STEP Ahead. I believe in the power of this award to recognize, encourage and celebrate women in supply chain. Nominations for the 2019 STEP Ahead Award open August 1, 2018, so make sure to nominate yourself or someone you know who should be recognized for work furthering manufacturing and supply chain. Learn more about the awards here.

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