International Women’s Day: Time to Celebrate and March On

THE RESILIENT ENTERPRISE | THE RISKMETHODS BLOG
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International Women’s Day 2021 is unlike any other in the 54 years of the occasion. We celebrate the International Day in the wake of a truly brutal year. But it was a year in which female leaders in science, government, and business made history.

Table of Contents:

1. Women’s Wins in the Workplace

2. Finding Common Ground

3. Getting an Early Start

4. Final Thoughts

Although the COVID-19 pandemic was the top story in 2020, we now have medicines to fight the virus. At least four of the leading vaccines were developed or co-developed by women. There are now more female heads of state and government than at any time in history. Last year, a woman was elected Vice President of the United States for the first time.

Many other wins for national women in 2020 didn’t make the headlines, or were overshadowed by the year’s frenetic news cycle, including advancements made in the supply chain industry. Let’s celebrate women!

  • The percentage of female Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) leading companies on the Fortune 500 hit an all-time high of 8.2%.
  • Also, the percentage of female Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs), Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs), and executive or senior vice presidents grew to 17% from 11% in 2019, according to Gartner’s 2020 Women in Supply Chain Survey.
  • That same survey found that women comprised 39% of the total supply chain workforce. It also reported that 63% of supply chain organizations “have specific goals to increase the number of women leaders in their ranks.”

The world hasn’t yet reached the United Nations goal of gender equality. In places, there is progress towards a more gender-equal workplace. But clearly, there’s more work to be done – especially in supply management.

We spoke to two highly successful female supply chain leaders. They told us how they got into the field and what has helped them to thrive. We asked what advice they would give to women and girls considering a career in supply management, including their younger selves. And what has helped them to succeed an infamously male-dominated industry? Their answers were revealing.

Finding Common Ground, Career Success

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Peggy Petersen is vice president of supply chain for Sub-Zero Group Inc. Based in Wisconsin, the company manufactures of refrigeration, cooking, and dishwashing appliances. Petersen is responsible for supply chain, strategic sourcing, and logistics operations. She has enjoyed the winding path her career has taken to this point.

“When I was unable to get into a marketing class, I chose a supply chain class as an ‘elective,’” she says. “I knew right then and there that it was a perfect match.” She never looked back. She earned degrees in supply chain, business administration, and then her MBA.

Petersen credits her success in the industry to developing strong relationships. These extend up and down the corporate ladder, and inside and outside of the business. This includes suppliers and industry organizations. “Solid relationships enable strong support for issue resolution as well as enhanced initiatives. These are always better when working together,” she says.

Similarly, Petersen believes that workforce diversity brings “multi-faceted perspectives” to the table, which results in better products and services. Petersen looks back on her nearly two decades of supply chain leadership experience. She has advice for her younger self. Step outside your comfort zone more often: “Be brave and be bold!”

And if you find yourself struggling in this male-dominated industry? Petersen’s advice is to look for opportunities to add unique value. Where can your strengths be an asset? Where can they fill a gap? For her, it was finding common ground among stakeholders with whom she built relationships.

With Petersen’s successful career, she has served as a role model. “My greatest accomplishment was raising two daughters who have grown to be independent and strong leaders in their respective careers. They are passionate and wonderful models for their daughters!”

As for women considering a career in supply management, Petersen believes it requires the courage to tackle big issues. “If you are energized with challenges, problem solving, and opportunities to make a huge impact to the organization, pursue this career.”

Getting an Early Start

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Becca Keller has been with Plexus Corp since interning with the company during her senior year in college. The Wisconsin-based company provides electronics manufacturing services (EMS). After graduating with an MS in Industrial Engineering, Keller joined Plexus full-time as a systems specialist.

Why supply chain, one might ask? “I learned early on that supply chain is multi-faceted, and I was intrigued by the opportunity to improve efficiencies and face new challenges every day,” Keller says. Two years and an MBA later, Keller was promoted to manager. She leads a team that develops systems, processes, and capabilities to design optimal supply chain solutions to its customers and its suppliers.

Keller credits her success to the strong leadership at Plexus. Through it all, she’s been encouraged to “think outside the box” and pursue development opportunities that have only reinforced her success. She’s proud to have worked with the Plexus team to create their proprietary, end-to-end SCRM solution.

Keller believes strongly in the value of seeing more women like herself in the supply management industry. Gender diversity, she says, “will not only push the industry forward through the incorporation of new perspectives, but it will also decrease barriers to entry for other women to start a career within this industry.

For women interested in supply chain management, Keller has some advice. Build relationships early on, especially those external to the company and industry. She would also tell her younger self to explore the different aspects of supply management. They vary widely, offering “truly something for everyone.”

Not sure where to start? Knowledge workers tend to change jobs and careers frequently. So it’s important to seek out employers that support job growth and personal development.

Keller advises young women to look for professionals across the supply management spectrum. They could help find their niche or preferred industry. And if you’re struggling, “keep your head up,” she advises. “Let your curiosity and drive flourish and surround yourself with a supportive network.”

Finally, Keller gave us some career advice that is great for women and men alike. Don’t focus so much on a job or a role; instead, look for a company and a manager that are willing to invest in their people.

Final Thoughts

As in the larger business world, women in supply chain and procurement are rising in operational and leadership roles. They are making tangible progress towards earning more seats at the proverbial table.

When more women work in procurement and supply chain, everyone benefits – employees, consumers, and families. Petersen and Keller are joined by the women beside them, and those who came before them. Together with those who will walk in their paths, they are knocking down the four walls of procurement and supply chain. They are building a bigger tent – one without glass ceilings.

Would you like to learn more about supply chain risk management? Peggy Petersen and Becca Keller are speakers at our webinar on Achieving Supply Chain Risk Maturity. Please join us! Details and registration below.

Webinar: Achieving Supply Chain Risk Maturity: Best practices from industry leaders

Register to learn more about supply chain risk management best practices that the women featured above have implemented in their own organizations on April 21, 2021 at 10 AM EST.
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