Eight Things Every Woman in Supply Chain Needs to Know


APICS Magazine – Friday December 22nd, 2017
By APICS CEO – Abe Eshkenazi

For this week’s issue, I’ve invited Jennifer Proctor, APICS director of publications, to write a piece derived from the first APICS Women in Supply Chain Forum, held earlier this year at APICS 2017.

I was inspired and motivated by the Women in Supply Chain Forum, part of APICS’s continuing efforts to attract, retain and advance women in the profession. I’m excited to share this valuable information gleaned from a panel discussion moderated by Jennifer Daniels, APICS vice president of marketing. The panelists were Karen Alber, CFPIM, former MillerCoors chief information officer; Laura Scott, McCormick & Company’s director, global process owner of integrated business planning; and Valerie Young, vice president, global supply chain at 3M.

1. Know yourself.

When you know yourself, you can be true to what you believe in, Alber advised. She added that developing your own integrity and values can help you find the job that’s the right fit for you, making your work life more satisfying. Likewise, knowing yourself can help you be a better leader. When Alber stepped into her CIO role, she realized she didn’t need all the technical answers to the company’s challenges to take the job. “I had to get more comfortable being a people leader, knowing how to engage and motivate people and learn from them,” she said.

  1. Have confidence in yourself.

“Bring your confidence to the table and then voice your opinions – they are not wrong. They are opinions, and voicing them at the leadership table continues to open doors,” Scott said. Young added that positive self-talk is important. If you give yourself reinforcement, you’ll be surprised at what you can do.

  1. Challenge your thinking.

All the women on the panel advised professionals to turn away from self-doubt and other forms of negative thinking. Young described how one of her mentors asked her to list reasons why she wouldn’t get a job. Then the mentor helped Young turn them around. “We went through every single point, and, from there, I was able to create a concise statement of what I could contribute that was unique and different. It helped me feel confident so I could sell myself.”

4. Take time to get the people skills right.

Alber credited her people skills with getting her far in her career, and she advised others to invest their time in developing their own people skills. “If there’s a way to learn to handle that tough stuff – moving people from point A to point B, listening and empathy – it definitely would translate across whatever program you are working in,” Alber said.

  1. Get comfortable with change.

Early in her career, Young was working on a project many people within the APICS community know about – creating a production schedule. She described how one day her boss walked in right after she had a phone call telling her she needed to change the schedule. She was frustrated because she had worked hard to create the schedule, and she had to throw it out and start again. Her boss countered that it wasn’t her job to create the schedule; but, instead, it was her job to change the schedule. “From that day forward, I made a commitment to make change my best friend,” Young said. “I realized that if I embrace change, then I’m ready for the next thing.”

  1. Identify six people you really want to know.

Young recommended shifting your notions about the mentor/mentee relationship and working on developing your own networks. Instead, identify people inside and outside your company, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people further in their careers and those just starting out. You can learn a lot from these more informal relationships, she said.

Alber added that creating your own advisory board can help you take control of your own career. It might include past supervisors, people within your organization and maybe your financial advisor. “Surround yourself with people you trust who can give you good advice to help you move both as an individual and as a leader,” Alber said.

  1. Create an open dialogue about sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace.

All the women on the panel shared examples from their experiences working in a field dominated by men. While some described male mentors who helped to positively shape their future success, they had all heard about or experienced sexual harassment.

“To me, the #MeToo moment is a call to action to make sure that I open that discussion for the areas that I touch, and expose whatever it is in all ways, shapes and forms so that we can get better and stronger form it,” Scott said. Alber added that finding your voice and your sense of self will help you speak up regardless of the magnitude of the situation. “Find your courage muscle and exercise it.”

  1. Let go.

If you work in supply chain, chances are you want to be in control – of the shipment, of the schedule, of the data and of much more. Add in a family, and the urge for control may become overpowering. “What I’ve learned over time is that you absolutely cannot be in control all the time,” Young said.

To be as successful as possible, Young advised women to leverage their professional and personal networks. “It’s really life enriching, and it will help us reach our full potential versus trying to do everything ourselves.”