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Supply Chain Workforce


As somebody who feels very passionate about the supply chain and logistics profession, I’m constantly perplexed by the apparent inability to attract new talent in this sector.


In particular I wish we could make inroads into the untapped female talent pool, where surely a wealth of professional excellence lies undiscovered.


It also concerns me (perhaps because I’m no longer a youngster), that the professional supply chain and logistics population is ageing at an alarming rate. I’m sure that the more people in our industry understand the crisis awaiting, the better the chances of bringing more women and younger people into the fold.

To that end, I’d like to share a few facts and figures on the topic of age and gender in supply chain, along with some possible initiatives we might all get involved in to reverse the decline in available/accessible supply chain and logistics talent.


The Supply Chain Gender Gap

Have you seen the statistics on gender mix within the supply chain workforce?  They have not changed in years. About 80% of the workforce is male.


Australian Logistics Workforce Trends


So on the one hand we are finding is hard to attract and retain quality staff and on the other, not enough females regard Supply Chain & Logistics as a worthwhile career.


2017 Update: I originally published this article in 2013. Here we are in 2017 and little has changed, despite efforts to promote the supply chain and logistics sector to the female gender.


The foundation of organisations such as Women in Supply Chain (WISC) in Australia and Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education (AWESOME) in the United States has helped to raise the profile of our industry among women, but still the overwhelming male domination of supply chain and logistics is all too evident.


What can we do to address this?  I’d suggest a greater focus on:

  1. Highlighting the long term career potential within the industry.  Shortly before I first published this article, Mark Powell, the CEO of the Warehouse NZ was presenting at Supply Chain School (now Supply Chain Leaders Academy)—and he comes from a Supply Chain background.
  2. Showcasing our female leaders in Supply Chain.  Again, speakers at Supply Chain School have, over the last few years, included a number of successful female logisticians, including Madonna McLaughlin from Pfizer and Megan Sunderland from Red Bull, who both gave outstanding presentations.
  3. Engaging with younger people early on in their career decision process. Organisations such as the LAA have put a lot of effort into this.
  4. Making the early stages of a Supply Chain career more interesting and varied, perhaps by rotating roles around within the organisation.


Age Concern in Supply Chain

To compound the problem, we’re all getting old in this industry!

Again, recent statistics show that the average age of employees in this industry is 45!

Supply Chain Employment Age

Given the predicted increase in the road freight task (see chart below) how will we cope with the shortage of heavy vehicle drivers?


Australian Road Freight Task

2017 Update: Since this article was originally published, growth in the road transport task slowed in line with reduced economy growth. However, the task stood at around 220 billion tonne-kilometres in the year 2013-2014, and is still expected to be twice the size of the year 2000 levels within the next decade.


Concluding Thoughts

Supply chain talent is becoming an ever rarer commodity, especially in the field of transportation. Companies MUST develop strategies to develop leaders from within, which requires a laser-sharp focus on employee retention and engagement. However, that doesn’t address the potential worsening of the heavy vehicle driver shortfall.


What is your organisation doing right now to prepare for that shortfall? Now is a good time for us all to share our insights and ideas for the good of the industry.


Similarly, it would be great to hear your views on the lack of female representation in the supply chain and logistics theatre. Please feel free to air your views in the comments section below.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013, under the title “The Supply Chain Workforce, Where Are They?” It has now been revamped and updated with more comprehensive and current information.


Contact Rob O'Byrne
Best Regards,
Rob O’Byrne
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +61 417 417 307
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