DEI in the Cold Chain

While the supply chain space is executing and upholding its many DEI efforts, there’s still more work to be done.

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Companies with more than 30% women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10-30%, and in turn, these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives or none at all, according to a McKinsey report.

In fact, the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is stronger than ever. Yet, women only occupy 21% of supply chain’s VP and senior director-level positions, a dip from 2021, according to a Gartner report.

That’s because while the supply chain is executing and upholding its many DEI efforts, there’s still more work to be done.

“A focus and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has become table stakes for any company in creating an equitable workplace culture that attracts and retains talent from diverse backgrounds,” says Diana Vera, VP of employee experience and diversity, XPO Logistics. “At XPO, we were one of the first companies in our industry to champion a formal DEI program, and since, we’ve seen an increased focus from our industry peers on the importance of diversity as they reaffirm their commitment to DEI initiatives publicly.”

Meanwhile, some organizations are backing the work with resources reflected in DEI leadership, a team and monetary funds to fully support strategic execution, says Angie Montville, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for Lineage Logistics.

“In addition to committing such resources, many of those same organizations have also created strategies with measurable goals with a solid business case defining how DEI enables the business,” Montville adds.

However, other organizations are creating DEI plans to create the ideology of inclusion.

“Some organizations are operating without a substantial strategy and no plan to embed DEI ideology into the organization’s DNA to impact representation and culture change. I’m also aware of organizations that have no DEI representation,” Montville adds.

“[DEI efforts] create psychological safety that allows employees to contribute without fear or consequence. This safety promotes trust, boldness and creativity that ultimately leads to innovation,” adds Montville. “It creates an environment in which employees have a sense of belonging and an increased desire to perform at a higher level. It helps leaders identify the different talent within their teams and then how to best leverage those talents to the success of the group and/or department at large. It promotes the attraction of all talent that may be historically dismissed or overlooked by other organizations and encourages a culture that retains such talent for longer periods of time. It increases profitability by again leveraging the diversity of representation, experience and thought.”

Where/how to start?

If not planned right or being executed appropriately, some of the DEI messaging can get lost along the way. And for some companies, the lack of a successful DEI platform may just be the simple fact as to, where and how do we start?

Vera and Montville recommend having a conversation first.

“A great DEI strategy starts with an honest conversation about where a company’s culture stands and where it needs to go,” says Vera. “Effective DEI strategies are executed best when there is buy-in from the top, so it’s important to map out how the strategy aligns with the company’s strategic imperatives and business goals. It is also critical to engage with your employees to understand what they value most, incorporate their feedback into the strategy and revisit efforts throughout to build support and bring the program to life.”

“Organizations should begin with the conversation of why they want and need DEI within their organization, and then obtain complete buy-in at the top from executive leadership before embarking on the journey,” ads Montville. “Next steps should be the recruitment of an experienced DEI leader who will be given full authority to inform the work to change actions – and at times – thinking/philosophies within the organization. And then, of course, that person should action the strategic plan to achieve goals that will advance DEI within the organization.”

It's also pertinent that companies practice continuous improvement with regards to their DEI programs.

For starters, DEI programs aren’t just a human resources initiative; they should be promoted, trained and followed through within all departments of a company.

“Companies can improve the success of their DEI efforts by incorporating a focus on inclusion and diversity across the business. Further, embedding DEI measurements into ongoing business reviews helps to continue the conversation and reinforces DEI as a business priority. Ultimately, the focus of DEI should be holistic and go beyond race, ethnicity, and gender, it should truly understand the diverse experiences of employees, taking into account cultural differences or disabilities, which is critical to improvement,” says Vera.

Other key components involve accountability and intentionality.

“An organization must be intentional about actioning steps to close gaps for diverse candidates within areas of recruitment, development, promotions, and pay equity. Accountability is paramount because it conveys the message as to how important the culture shift is to a company by setting the expectation of how an employee --and most importantly leaders -- represent their values,” says Montville.

The future of DEI in the supply chain

Gender-based adversity still affects close to 74% of women in the supply chain, according to a Procurious study. And, just 14% of companies have strategies in place to protect and promote women in supply chain and procurement. 

“Put bluntly: There’s a lot of talk but not enough action or results. Our research found that only 16% of women have seen their organizations make tangible progress toward addressing gender bias this year. We need to work together to lift up, empower and protect women in the workforce and drive real change,” says Tania Seary, founding chairman and CEO of Procurious. 

That’s why now is the time to address DEI efforts in the supply chain.

“The importance of effective DEI initiatives will only continue to increase. Across the industry, companies will need to be mindful of the composition and diversity of their future workforces. It will be critical to be able to tap into a variety of labor markets, diverse skill sets and offer workforce flexibility as the pool for available talent evolves. Changing world, domestic and environmental perspectives will also impact how companies evolve their programs,” says Vera.

The influx of newer generations entering the supply chain space provides a sliver of optimism for the future of DEI.

“I assess them as bringing a more, inclusive outlook on life and society into any organization. They will expect representation, equity and inclusion as the norm rather than simply as an aspirational goal,” says Montville. “Commit to its efforts unapologetically. Value the work as a business imperative and not view it as an initiative or a program. Ownership of the strategy, execution and success cannot rest solely on diversity leadership. It begins at the highest levels of the organization with expectations to cascade downward – to all levels -- and rise from within the organization back up to the executive leaders.”

The Gartner report also reveals another 85% of supply chain organizations are implementing initiatives focused on gender diversity recruitment, while 91% are deploying employee engagement initiatives.

Strengthen your company’s DEI messaging and efforts by nominating up to three female leaders for our third annual Women in Supply Chain award, and register to attend this year’s Women in Supply Chain Forum. The supply chain is better together when it’s promoting inclusivity across the board.