2022 has observed crises that have tested the global supply chain’s reliability and resiliency. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine have exacerbated disruptions in the supply chain, resulting in supply shortages and price inflation. The Ukrainian invasion caused chaos among global supply chains, particularly in palladium and xenon shortages, meaning the demand for cars had outpaced manufacturing supplies. With the industry’s current state, change becomes necessary. Fortunately, women account for 39% of the total supply chain workforce and have been undertaking inclusive and intuitive methods in stabilizing the global supply chain.
This article will shed light on the specific issues the supply chain industry has contended with in recent years and how women have become agents of change who help navigate, and overcome, these challenges.
Challenges met by global supply chains thus far
The first instance of supply shock began in China during the first quarter of 2020, followed by demands that the global economy shut down. Production strategies were negatively affected by lockdowns and enforced safety regulations, underpinned by how trade for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals were temporarily restricted. Blockages continue to be volatile in 2022—and this is reinforced by the 1.5% increase in global inflation due to shipping.
Before stringent protocols and international conflicts, supply chain disruptions were generally caused by bad weather, fire, or other natural disasters. These circumstances were manageable since their impact stayed well within a specific city or region. Currently, however, the effects of supply chain disruptions can be observed worldwide, driving forward discussions on how women can foster better collaboration to smoothen operations in the global supply chain.
Current state of global supply chains and how women will shape it moving forward
Innovation and flexibility are central to ensuring global supply chain continuity. With women at the helm, businesses can create unique solutions from a more balanced perspective. Below, we touch on how women have been leading the way through supply chain challenges.
Adopting collaborative practices
Congested ports, high freight rates, and misplaced shipping containers have resulted in decreased productivity across the global supply chain. Supply chains need to adopt collaborative practices to bolster efficiency. Information sharing, specifically, should be smooth to enable more efficient inventory management and costs and delivery reduction.
When retailers inflate forecasts to ensure they have enough supply, suppliers tend to distrust the buyer forecast and, in turn, provide lower service levels. In a study on the role of women in supply chain collaboration, women in both retail and supply roles are found to be more collaborative than male workers. This is because women gave lower forecast inflation and were more open to production adjustments. Interestingly, the collaborative behavior of suppliers also increased when they engaged with female professionals. Women have also placed greater emphasis on leveraging sustainable solutions. This can mean investing with local enterprises that offer sustainable goods and services at a fraction of the cost of current suppliers. Not only will women advance solutions for inequality and waste, but they can also champion inclusivity. Ultimately, when women prioritize cooperation in supplier-customer relationships, they can pave better opportunities for supply chain operations.
Closing the gender gap
Females make only 75% of their male counterparts in today’s supply chain industry. As an underrecognized demographic, other women can be discouraged from contributing to the industry. In light of this imbalance, there’s a need to address gender biases that underscore the gender gap in supply chains. For manufacturing jobs, soft skills can be viewed as having lesser value than technical expertise. However, women who excel in communication, collaboration, and creativity can lend valuable insights into supply chain management, like how to encourage and retain diverse talent.
Ushering in a higher volume of women-led positions in the supply chain industry begins with nurturing talent. It’s important to recognize and train high-performing female workers who want to pursue leadership roles. Feedback as well should build confidence. Although to take it a step further, organizations can also generate professional growth opportunities by creating a dynamic network of female workers. Achieving gender parity can only be recognized when future generations have strong female role models to look up to.
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