· Features

The future of business depends on diverse talent

The supply chain industry has traditionally been viewed as a male-dominated environment. While more women are entering the sector, and we have seen a positive shift in the past 10 years towards a multi-discipline perspective, few women hold C-level positions.

There is still a low proportion of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields – where many of the skills can be applied to a career in the supply chain sector.

Supply chain analysts, for example, need a good understanding of mathematics and statistics, as well as the ability to work with software tools to solve operational problems. Government figures show that women hold just 15.5% of jobs in STEM fields, despite making up 46% of the overall UK workforce. If lasting change is to occur, we need more female role models working in supply chain to provide young talent with a template for success. 

There are actually myriad job opportunities in supply chain, including planning, purchasing, production, transportation, storage and distribution, and customer service – among others. With such a wide breadth of roles, it's vital that the industry works to better promote its careers by combating any false perceptions of what a job in supply chain entails. Success in the sector is about strategic thinking, interest in global operations and an understanding of how products are designed, built and delivered.

Women typically have the innate skillset well suited to a variety of roles within the sector – mediation, collaboration, self-awareness and emotional intelligence, for instance, are all beneficial for supply chain management.

As vice president of customer service at Coca-Cola Enterprises, I manage the order to delivery process in eight countries, overseeing customer orders through to transport delivery. On a regular basis, I work with our customers’ supply chain directors to maintain a collaborative relationship, while also staying focused on helping to grow our business and waste less.

As a market leader in the soft drinks category across Europe, we’re keen to see more female talent in our company and within our supply chain function. Between 2009 and 2013, we increased the number of women within our management band from 29% to 37%, by implementing a range of measures such as aiming to have at least one woman on every recruitment shortlist for new roles.

Of the graduates who are currently taking part in our ‘University Talent Pipeline’ programme, 56% are female – including three young women in our supply chain who are some of the most promising future leaders I’ve ever seen. However, we are still facing challenges when it comes to recruiting more women, especially in supply chain – and there is much more to be done.

A wide range of knowledge and opinions, backgrounds, gender and ages provides tremendous value to the company, but also encourages employees at all levels to embrace differences in thought, approach and problem solving. With statistics far above the industry average for women in leadership, we want to set the bar high and encourage the advancement of women in the workplace, and boardroom.

The future of every business depends on having an adequate supply of skilled employees, and at Coca-Cola we are striving to encourage a more diverse set of candidates into our business and the sector itself, to ensure its future sustainability and success.

Wendy Manning is vice president of customer services at Coca-Cola Enterprises