Women working in supply chain discuss the need for better recruitment and retention
Corrie Banks is president of Triskele Logistics, a company she started after working as an IT project manager within the supply chain. Banks spent 14 years at CP Railway working in many aspects of the business after starting in mechanical services.
Kleo Landucci is vice president, projects and development at Ashcroft Terminal. She began her career in the financial sector, moving to the Ashcroft terminal three and a half years ago on a full time basis.
Ann Pompilio is a CFO at 3PL Links Inc. and began her career in IT and accounting.
The Cargo Logistics Conference, which took place January 28 and 29 in Vancouver, featured a panel of industry leading women who work in supply chain. Jane McIvor, Editor of the BC Shipping News, was the moderator. The panel shared thoughts and experiences on the industry, recruitment and retention strategies.
Q| What’s the current situation with respect to the ratio of men to women in the supply chain?
Corrie Banks: There are not very many of us but that is changing now as many more women are coming in via customer service and procurement. The boots on the ground supply chain is nearer and dearer to my heart. There are also more women at the frontlines which will translate into more senior levels later on.
You want women in your supply chain because we think differently and we bring different things to the table. Having women on the board has a huge impact on profitability.
Women are an underutilized workforce-we have more available women than we actually have working. We want to attract these women with transferable skills into the sector.
Ann Pompilio: I’m coming from the pure 3PL supply chain. Many women are coming into the supply chain industry from HR, CST, as business analysts, etc. I’ve worked on putting some of those business analysts with the supply chain team. It’s a win-win situation, with the sharing of skills across the supply chain.
Kleo Landucci: When we looked to build our team we looked for the best person for the job. There are not many more than 5% of women around the table. I saw that in the financial industry. There are tremendous opportunities for women to come and use their terrific brains and perspectives. I suspect that family demand is a tough balance. We certainly have women doing the loading at the terminal-we feel they are probably safer operators because they tend to be more careful.
I think that the focus needs to be on good talents overall. We will hire the best person for the job and who is passionate about the industry. What I’d like to see is more passion from younger people, more of an interest in what’s going on in the companies.
Q| What is the labour growth forecast for your sectors? What positions are opening up the most, and which are the most difficult to fill?
Corrie Banks: There has been lots of head hunting within the industry itself for management level (candidates). There is lots of opportunity for sure in truck driving. Every warehouse person I talk to says they have an ongoing, non-stop recruitment process. We’re struggling both at the frontline level and the experienced level. I encourage everyone to think about transferrable skills, like IT or accounting.
Ann Pompilio: Those transferrable skills add value in terms of putting together solutions for a client. At the entry level yes, there is a big gap. At the C-level there are many women in sales and operations, and I think that’s great. There’s an awareness now.
Kleo Landucci: We’ll start to see more changes now in B.C. as the federal government recognizes the need for apprenticeship funding. The key is to have women be trained at a young age and develop their passion early, starting off with a passion about what you’re doing, so you’ll be drawn back. We have employed women in traditional male roles at the site. We’ve seen women do a terrific job at what they’ve been hired for. I think the key point is this industry has a plethora of opportunities for people. Realize there is a broad, diverse, cross-section of opportunities here. It’s a huge industry full of innovation and creativity. We’d love to see more women and more talent overall.
Q| What about challenges around
family/maternity leave issues?
Kleo Landucci: It’s very difficult to promote me into a leadership role if I’m newly married and about to have children. You need to have an important network. The reality is that it’s very difficult for women to take on big responsibilities.
Corrie Banks: When you look at the way that we look at our roles as women, it is possible but we do need the support. Don’t try and do everything yourself. It is a definite challenge that we face as women. The challenge we need to try and shift is that if a woman is of childbearing age it doesn’t mean that she is not interested in furthering her career. We don’t challenge the paradigms of ‘when we come back we take on the same role as before and not a lesser role.’
From the mother perspective, it is not impossible for a mother to be in a front line supply chain role but we have to have full and equal support. In my world my husband is an equal partner and he stayed home for three months to look after nine-month old twins because I was the higher income earner. That might mean that men have to go into non-traditional roles, and that is where it gets really tough.
Ann Pompilio: I raised my children while I was pursuing a supply chain career. You’re not going to win every day so don’t try. There were some days where you wanted to say ‘this is not working.’ It’s all about the overall picture.
Q| Have you ever experienced a bias?
Kleo Landucci: As women in male dominated industries, you need to work harder, be more educated, and smarter. Sometimes that’s what women have to do. Sometimes women can let emotions get the best of them. We need to make sure our level of professionalism and strategic experience is ahead of the others.
Corrie Banks: I’m extremely direct in my communication and there are many times that that has not been perceived as positive. The challenge that you have is looking at your strengths and being smarter. If a person is not reacting well to your being the ‘driver’, change your communication.
Q| Why have we done such a collectively
horrible job recruiting women?
Corrie Banks: One of the things we’ve been talking about is the image of the supply chain. I think we have an image problem. We’re not doing a good job of promoting the supply chain as an industry of choice. We are making progress on a cultural level across the board. We have to make sure the males are in the conversation. It’s a labour market conversation.
We as women have to make sure that we are welcoming and inclusive ourselves. We also need to get people to understand what supply chain actually is-there is quite a lot of business process, and change management that happens in the supply chain. It’s actually a very interesting career path.
Q| Are business schools failing at the supply chain
specializations, for example in operations and
Corrie Banks: In general, from an industry perspective, we need to look at flexibility as a strategy. As the owner of my own company, some of the things I employ are more flexible job arrangements. As corporations start to look at how we can attract and retain women into the industry, there’s always a risk that with flexibility someone will take advantage of what you’re offering.
Ann Pompilio: That’s the strategy we work with, looking at the tasks at hand as well as bringing an awareness to the team, and trying to promote finances at the decision-making table.
Q| Are you seeing more purposeful mentoring
and coaching in the industry?
Kleo Landucci: I see more purposeful mentoring but I think we’re missing things a little bit. I don’t think there are many programs that focus on mentoring. I have more than one mentor. I think you need both a mentor and a coach.
Ann Pompilio: There are companies that sponsor educational programs in supply chain. Graduating students have to have so many hours in 3PLs and it gives companies the opportunity to bring these individuals on board.
Kleo Landucci: Education needs to start at the grassroots level. In B.C. there is a disconnect between the rural and urban centres-the wealth comes from the hinterland. I’ll be focusing on taking my kids to Prince George for them to see what goes on in the industry. Certainly the post- secondary programs are crucially important but certainly we need to start younger.
Q| What about succession planning
at more senior levels?
Corrie Banks: I do strongly believe we’ve created a different type of bias: you got the job because you’re a woman. From a labour market availability perspective we are actually going backwards. There needs to be people in the jobs because they are qualified. We also need to pick the people who make us less comfortable. Diversity actually has a direct impact on the GDP of a country. Strategies have to be balanced. Specifically we need more women coming in at the entry level, and we need people at executive levels to understand the value of them being there.
We need to highlight the unconscious things we do that make us comfortable and consciously make a different choice.
Q| What is your advice for young women coming
into the workforce and would that advice
differ from what you would give to a male?
Corrie Banks: Ask for what you want, don’t assume it will be given to you. If you want to grow in your career, you have to put into it what you want to get out of it. I would give the same advice to a male.
Ann Pompilio: When you look at your career aspirations you really have to follow your passion, figure out where you can add value and at the end of the day be true to yourself. Don’t be someone you’re not. Don’t forget you are a woman.
Kleo Landucci: I would say push yourself. While you’re “finding yourself” you need to be professional in life. Don’t ever be late. Have confidence, and realize you have to earn it.
Q| Any advice for
Ann Pompilio: I think the advice is don’t try to put them in a box. Get them to manage to the task at hand.
Corrie Banks: They really care about being heard, and they really care about the environment.
Kleo Landucci: They should realize that it’s not about what your company can do for you, it’s about what you can do for your company.