Women Climbing Supply-Chain Ranks Find a Growing Salary Gap

Date: Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Source: Wall Street Journal

More women are pursuing careers in supply chain, industry groups say, but the gender pay gap in a field long dominated by men gets wider the higher women climb in leadership ranks.

Men in the sector earned on average 29% more than women overall in 2017, according to a recent survey of 3,000 purchasing and supply-chain professionals by the Institute for Supply Management. The gulf was wider at high-level positions, where there are fewer women generally, and among workers with the most experience. For example, men who had been in supply chain for 15 to 19 years earned 48% more than their female cohorts, ISM found.

The gap has narrowed slightly since 2016, when the disparity in salaries was 31 percentage points. But women were still paid less than men in 2017 across various white-collar supply chain jobs, from junior purchasing positions to the C-suite. In the relatively few most senior positions such as executive vice president, men on average earned 26% more than women in similar posts.

“Women haven’t made near the progress that the industry wants to think we have,” said Cory Ann Holst, senior director of data and performance management for the global business services division of snack-food giant Mondelez International Inc. “We all know there is a glass ceiling.”

Abe Eshkenazi, chief executive of supply-chain organization APICS, said the group’s most recent compensation survey also found pay disparities, although the overall gap was smaller, with men earning on average nearly 16% more than women. Separate APICS surveys suggest more women have been entering supply-chain management as a career in recent years.

Mr. Eshkenazi said women perform at the same levels as men with the same job titles and expectations but may not be given the same opportunities to advance their careers. “There is a gap for women in leadership,” he said.

 

The pay disparity is on par with that in the broader U.S. labor force. Last year, women in the U.S. across all occupations made 81.8% of what men were paid, according to the Census Bureau, based on a comparison of median weekly earnings.

According to ISM’s median salary data, women in the supply-chain sector earned 81 cents for every dollar that men did in 2017. The median salary for women was $88,000, compared to $108,000 for men.

Experts say a range of factors play into the gender pay gap, including discrimination and different career choices. White-collar jobs often reward people who work long hours or change positions frequently, for instance, steps some women with families may be less likely to take.

Women haven’t made near the progress that the industry wants to think we have. 

—Cory Ann Holst.

Sana Raheem, head of operations at the Farmer’s Dog, a subscription-based healthy pet food company in New York City, worked her way up in logistics at Kraft Heinz Co. and was a senior manager of logistics and supply chain at Mondelez International. Getting there meant taking jobs in remote manufacturing facilities with a mostly-male labor force and few female role models, she said.

“I had many moments early in my career where I was told to slow down, be less aggressive, and pay my dues,” said Ms. Raheem, 29, who previously was director of supply chain operations at meal-kit maker Blue Apron Holdings Inc. “I saw a lot of women around me accept similar feedback and spend years making less than their male counterparts.”

The most recent pay gap figures come as supply-chain jobs, which traditionally focused on operations, have evolved to include more financial planning, data analysis and information technology roles. Overall pay in the sector is up, as companies look for more aggressive management of their supply chains to offset rising production and freight expenses.

“The industry is increasingly well suited for women. It involves identifying opportunities, thinking strategically, and working collaboratively,” said Robert Handfield, a professor of supply chain management and executive director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative at North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management.

Women now account for about 40% of the school’s MBA candidates focused on supply-chain, up from about 35% in past years, he said.

The gender pay gap for supply chain professionals is smaller than that in management, businesses and financial occupations. Census data shows women in those jobs earned 74 cents for every dollar men made in 2017.

And pay gaps are narrowing among more junior ranks. Men with four or fewer years of experience earned just 2% more than women last year, compared with 22% in 2013, the ISM survey found.

Catherine Savery, a 23-year-old logistics planner at Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn., said her communication skills helped her shine on an otherwise all-male team in her first job out of college. “I have empathy for the drivers. I have respect for them and am able to communicate when and why something is needed,” she said.

Ms. Savery is open to moving to advance her career, and says her role models at Eastman include both men and women. “One woman, she’s at the director level, and, buddy, she commands that,” she said. “You’re like, wow, I want that confidence.”

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