LQ’s Women in Supply Chain Management Panel

Why don't more women have C-level roles in the workplace? Traditionally, executives refer to the catchall the "glass ceiling" to characterize the failure of many organizations to include women in the most senior leadership positions.

Instead of this traditional perspective of one primary hurdle to mitigate during the last stages of an illustrious career, recent articles and research points to the value of taking a more comprehensive look at the many career challenges mitigated during a professional's entire career.

LQ's inaugural edition of Women in Supply Chain Management (WomenInSCM.com) applies this outlook and examines many of the unique challenges women face in the workplace.

In this edition, LQ has the privilege and honor to feature leading executives from the United States and Canada who share their insights and ideas on the most important ingredients for charting a pathway to success. These executives are helping to reshape the landscape of logistics and the way we think.

LQ founded WomenInSCM.com in 2007 to provide an information resource for women in this exciting field in the United States and Canada, and to build on LQ's tradition of providing ‚"Ideas for Leadership in Logistics and Transportation,‚" a mission statement featured on the cover of each issue of LQ Magazine.

With the inauguration of Women in Supply Chain Management LQ offers an editorial environment and a meeting place where women can enjoy networking with each other and keep abreast of current events in the industry.

LQ has invited the executives and academics on LQ's distinguished Women in Supply Chain Management Panel, who created the framework for this Executive Interview Series, to kickoff this series by selecting a question of their choice from the menu of questions articulated by their peers.

LQ's Panel for Women In Supply Chain Management Executive Interview Series: Jacquelyn A. Barretta, Vice President, Con-way Inc Pamela S. Benkert, General Manager, WW Operations and Vice President, Consumer Digital Group, Eastman Kodak; Karen Cooper, Sr. Media Relations Specialist, Corporate Communications, FedEx Canada; Mitali De, Ph.D., Professor in the School of Business, Wilfrid Laurier, and Associate Dean of Business Academic Programs; Melissa Gracey, President, DTA Services; Linda Childs Hothem, CEO, PACAM; Diane Mollenkopf, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marketing and Logistics, University of Tennessee; Angela Mondou, Founder, ICE Leadership; Susan L. Oaks, Vice President, A. T. Kearney; Susan Promane, Director of Supply Chain, Whirlpool Canada; Gail Rutkowski, Director of Operations, AIMS Solutions; Ellen Voie, President, Women in Trucking Inc.

LQ would like to take this opportunity to thank each member of the panel for their contribution in creating the framework for LQ's inaugural Women in SCM series.

Jacquelyn A. Barretta, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Con-way Inc.

Are there certain areas of the supply chain management profession in which you feel women tend to excel?

I believe women tend to excel at listening and collaborating and do not always feel the same pressure as men in management roles to appear that they know everything just because they are the boss. For example, I am in charge of Con-way's IT group, but I don't feel that I have to be the smartest one and always have the answers. I believe in making the organization strong by working together, and it doesn't matter to me if the solution to a problem comes from me or a member of my team, as long as we solve it.

Pamela S. Benkert is General Manager, WW Operations and Vice President, Consumer Digital Group for Eastman Kodak Company

Do you see a career in logistics as being significantly different than one in any other business field?

Yes and No: Yes, because logistics is a broad and cross-functional discipline that requires a full understanding of the business you support. From the understanding of the Profit and Loss Statement to the market place in which you compete, a full operational strategy must be developed. No, because when you take into consideration that most roles require strong communications skills, coupled by an analytic base, it boils down to how you choose to apply these transferable skills. Creativity can be applied to any discipline; therefore it is the way in which you approach these roles that determines your success.

Dr. Mitali De, Associate Dean of Business: Academic Programs, School of Business & Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University

What advice do you have for young women in university programs who may be considering a logistics/supply chain career?

I recommend that young women should seriously consider a career in SCM. As globalization moves forward, manufacturing and consumer behavior will be influenced more and more by global markets. The net effect will be more opportunities in SCM. These career opportunities will not necessarily have traditional barriers for women experienced in fields such as logistics/transportation/distribution management; the career opportunities will be more in the arena of knowledge workers, requiring soft skills such as good communication beyond borders. With the advance in technology-based communication systems, many of these career opportunities can be better managed with a balance of work, family and life in general. Overall, in the advanced global market there is great promise for women to both hold and rise in careers related to SCM.

Melissa Gracey, President, DTA Services Ltd.

As a woman, what qualities do you bring to your role as a business leader, and how do these qualities make a difference to your organization?

I believe women are very thorough and organized, have acute communication skills and follow their instincts. Women are also not afraid of delegating and giving others a chance to stretch and grow. As the leader of DTA Services, it is mandatory to ensure organized processes are in place, that accuracy is maintained, and that as freight rate auditors and consultants our job is performed like clockwork! When I took over the business a year ago, I decided to delegate responsibilities to my staff that excelled in those areas. For example, I promoted our audit manager to Human Resources Manager because she has such a wonderful personality and our staff responds so well to her. She likes what she does and she is great at it!

Diane Mollenkopf, Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing and Logistics, University of Tennessee

What advice do you have for young women in university programs who may be considering a logistics/supply chain career?

My basic advice is "go for it!" There are many opportunities for women in this field that was once male-dominated. I've always thought of logistics as a very exciting career opportunity. Those in logistics roles get to see across an entire organization, and even across multiple organizations. Because women tend to be relationally focused, this cross-function vision and influence provides a great opportunity for women to add value to organizations. The strategic emphasis of logistics is being increasingly recognized, and this again provides great opportunities for women to influence the future logistics and supply chain strategies of their firms.

What advice do you have for women who are trying to balance career and family? Can women have it all?

I grew up in a time when women were being told they could have it all. Now, many years down the track, I think it's a bit naive to think you can have it all. Every choice in life is just that...a choice. Women particularly feel the stress of choosing between family and career. I think the more appropriate approach is how to balance career and family. This will be a very personal choice for each woman, but make sure you think ahead of time about your priorities in life. The choices become even more complicated when a two-career couple tries to blend careers and family. Great communication between spouses/partners, great scheduling skills, patience with kids' needs, and the ability to laugh it off when things don't go right (e.g., showing up to a meeting with baby spittle on your lapels), will get you a long way towards "balance". Most of all, don't ever lose perspective of what's important to you in the long run, and let that guide your choices.

Susan L. Oaks, Partner and Vice President, A. T. Kearney

Who has most helped you in advancing your career in logistics?

Dave Closs with Michigan State University is responsible for giving me my first opportunity in the logistics profession when I worked for him in a small consulting firm where he was a Partner. Since then, Dave has provided sound advice and mentoring and introduced me to opportunities in professional organizations. He continues to inspire and challenge me.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the continuing need to develop creative solutions with my clients. Environment, industry cost structure, security and risk management are all issues which present new challenges to shippers and providers alike. These are the challenges that I thrive on.

What are the most significant challenges that face women in the supply chain field? How have you been able to surmount these challenges in your own career?

Women and men face many of the same challenges in supply chain. In my career, it has been important to understand logistics and supply chain issues from the bottom up so that pragmatic and practical recommendations can be developed and then actually implemented. It is critical in consulting that you establish credibility quickly – I have found that mastery of the content is key. I have been fortunate to be able to build upon my training in materials and logistics management, with many different client engagements over the years giving me a relatively unique perspective on my client's problems.

Ellen Voie, President, Women in Trucking

Is it more important for a young woman in logistics to be mentored by a man or a woman? Does it make a difference?

Since the balance is still biased toward our male counterparts, women have some challenges that their male mentors might not have considered. So, I believe that until women have an equal voice in this industry, it would be better to be mentored by a woman. There is still a potential glass ceiling in corporate life, and only through determination and persistence will we shatter that barrier, and by combining our efforts we can achieve this in the future. Finally, every professional would be wise in choosing a mentor who not only understands the path their younger counterpart will be taking, but has already learned to maneuver around or through the hurdles and can help reduce some of these stresses. Unfortunately, women still assume most challenges to balancing a family and a career, and young women will want to understand that they can overcome some of the obstacles they may face when (and if) they choose to start a family.

Does being a female pose any networking hurdles or does it offer unique opportunities? Women who can learn to stand out from their peers can be recognized for their accomplishments much more easily than men, but only if they are capable and have had some level of achievements.