Diversity in the C-suite has been a topic of increasing importance for many companies and investors across industries. However, when we look at talent within supply chain, it is unclear where diversity stands. Since 2014, there were only twenty-two (4%) female heads of supply chain and procurement within Fortune 500 companies.[1] A discussion on the topic of leadership diversity appears to be lacking altogether in this industry. A Deloitte 2015 Supply Chain survey identified that only 20% of companies in supply chain are investing their time and efforts in a diversity and inclusion program. With the transformation that supply chain underwent in the past few years, and the complexity of its operations and increased pressures on its leadership, diversity of talent in this space is a discussion worth having.

Just within the past decade, supply chain has undergone many changes caused by innovative technology and globalization. Supply chain is no longer just the movement of goods from point A to point B. The role of the Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) has also evolved from a highly logistical role to a strategic one. Currently, more often than not, the CSCO reports directly to the CEO and is part of the C-suite overseeing company operations and managing strategic relationships. The role of the CSCO has added to its agenda more responsibilities –in addition to increased performance requirements. In such circumstances, diversity of background (such as international experience, cultural and professional experience), age, gender and ethnicity is imperative for maintaining and increasing company performance. A diverse candidate in the C-suite can make a large impact on the competitiveness and performance of a company – enhancing innovation by challenging traditional approaches to common practices, leveraging untapped consumer markets based on their background and knowledge, and promoting an inclusive environment for all forms of talent.

Talent in general should be a concern in supply chain management. With the increased complexity of operations shadowing the industry, more demands are being placed on its leadership. With more demands, and lack of investment in rigorous diversity and inclusion programs, talent has become a real issue. Diversifying the talent pool within the industry will attract more professionals and not only diverse in gender but also ethnically diverse, diverse in age and in technical background. Supply chain has been globalized to the point where many, if not the majority, of operations and transactions today occur on an international level and across borders rendering diversity a business need. The management team of any company should be further representative of its customer base. Women, and other diverse talent, is a value add and will help supply chain management understand and represent their customers holistically.

The ability to attract, retain, and develop great leaders will put companies in supply chain at a competitive advantage. Making diversity a priority at the CSCO level will also help companies with executive succession planning in the future by addressing talent supply constraints preemptively. Diversifying mid-management and C-suite roles will add to the pool of potential CEO successors. Many professionals have made the transition from the CSCO to the CEO role. Tim Cook is a prime example of a professional who transitioned from the role of SVP of Worldwide Operations at Apple to its CEO. Hence, being strategic about talent diversity is not only a ‘nice to have’ practice but also a strong investment in a company’s present and future leaders.

Companies have a real possibility at increasing profits, acquiring and retaining the best talent, and adding to their brand value by investing in diversity and inclusion best practices. While diversification of suppliers has long been part of the day-to-day discourse in supply chain, diversification of management and top leadership has not been given equal attention. With only twenty-two female CSCOs in Fortune 500 companies, there remains plenty of work to be done.

[1] “Supply Chain Talent of the Future”, Deloitte 2015.

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