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Why a career in supply chain will lead to a wealth of equal opportunities for men and women.
Supply chain management might have historically been considered a male-dominated sector. However, there are plenty of great reasons for women to consider careers and target leadership positions within this dynamic, fast-moving industry.
As a professional staffing specialist, we’re lucky enough to get to know some inspirational women and help them secure leadership roles within supply chain management.
Audrey Davin, a senior supply chain professional from Unilever, spoke to us about the biggest challenges she’s faced, how she overcame them, and gave us her opinions on gender diversity and sustainability in the supply chain, which is top of the agenda for many businesses today.
How did you get into supply chain management?
It was a natural choice for me. I come from a family of bakers and have worked in the family business from a young age, supporting everything from production to customer service.
When choosing my career, I was already concerned about the problems linked to the environment and sustainability within manufacturing. Even 20 years ago, supply chain management offered the best opportunity to cover all my points of interest.
How can we encourage more women to choose supply chain as a viable career option? What’s good about supply chain, and why should it be appealing?
Why shouldn’t it be appealing to a woman? Supply chain management is a great career path, and there is nothing within supply chain that a woman can’t do.
There are many exciting opportunities to progress in a range of diverse disciplines, including procurement, production, quality, engineering, logistics, sustainability, innovation, digital transformation, new technologies development and implementations. There aren’t many functions offering such a wide variety of job profiles and a chance to tackle multiple topics as your career develops.
Supply chain is also the best place to manage large teams and gain diverse, human experience. The supply chain is a support function connected with marketing, finance and R&D, and your colleagues will offer different insights and sensitivities to your day-to-work activities.
You can work as a line manager in a factory or at a headquarters in an office and have two completely different experiences.
Supply chain is where concepts and ideas come to life, promoting self-satisfaction for achieving something tangible. If I were 20 again, I would still select supply chain as my chosen career path.
How can we support and encourage women to progress in their careers?
There are different levers. The first is that women in a position of leadership need to support and inspire other women to choose a career in this industry.
Sadly, many ladies I have managed have had a hidden inferiority complex or do not dare to unleash their full potential. "I want it, so I’ll just go for it", is a mindset that is hard to unlock due to social stereotypes, which affect people in childhood.
I am very happy to see stereotypes and gender inequality gradually changing with new generations and mindsets.
Secondly, men have to help too! We can inspire more women by seeking further support and encouragement from our male co-workers and leaders who keep gender equality high on their business agenda. Men play a crucial role in promoting change.
Last but not least, women need to be proud of their work and become positive role models for young women. There is no need to ‘sacrifice’ anything to have a satisfying career either – keep being the daughter, sister, wife and mother you want to be, and be proud of that.
Women in leadership have a big role to play in the next ten years to set the scene and not ‘copy’ men when progressing in their career. We must live and enjoy our lives and jobs the way we want to – this is crucial to guarantee career resilience and success in the long run. If you are not happy, then one day, you will give up.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to supply chain?
Far above all the rest, the people! Supply chain is a ‘chain’ by definition – you cannot stand ‘alone’ in your role.
Whatever you do, you are somewhere in the ‘chain’. The bigger the organisation you work for, and the more chains you are part of, the more human interactions you will need.
I connect with a core team of around 50 people from different functions on a daily basis. They work in different departments, manage different other functions, live in different regions, share different cultures and are of different age groups – an amazing and diverse team!
What advice would you give someone embarking on a supply chain career?
I would recommend getting your hands dirty first – build your knowledge foundations from the frontline and be humble. The white shirt and office desk will follow when you are fully qualified and have confidence in your expertise.
Work aside, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Besides taking care of my family, I oxygenate my brain by practising sport. I love sport, and it’s at the centre of my life/work balance.
I also enjoy learning new things, whether through reading or by making things, such as homemade yoghurt, cheese and soap. I also dive, quenching my thirst for adventure and discovery. I am a rescue diver and like to be there for others who are in need.
I regularly try new things. COVID encouraged me to learn guitar, something I will definitely keep practising and that I feel could play a bigger role in my work/life balance.
I am an active learner, not only for the benefit of knowing more but mostly because it fulfils my curiosity and makes me happy.