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Women take charge in the retail supply chain


The retail supply chain is one of the most male-dominated areas of the historically male-dominated retail industry, but a growing number of female executives are shifting the paradigm.

During the Women in Supply Chain & Technology luncheon held at the recent Manhattan Associates Momentum 2016 conference in Orlando, Florida, three veteran female retail supply chain practitioners discussed the challenges and rewards of their pioneering careers.

“Women and men approach things differently,” said Susan Kinder, VP of restaurant solutions and global information systems for pizza chain Papa John’s International Inc. “Women are more collaborative and egalitarian, compared to the traditional hierarchical style of management. One is not better than the other – they are different and complementary. But not everyone appreciates the diversity of management styles.”

Karen Etzkorn, executive VP and CIO of multiformat retailer HSN Inc., said she appreciates working for a company with strong female leadership, but realizes there is still much work to be done.

“Our CEO Mindy Grossman is a fierce woman,” said Etzkorn. “She is committed to women in leadership. More than half our executive team and one-third of our executive board are women.”

However, Etzkorn acknowledged that it is not always easy to find female candidates to fill IT-related positions.

“Only 18-20% of the IT workforce is represented by women,” said Etzkorn. “We have a responsibility to change that.”

And while panelists agreed that women often struggle to balance work and home responsibilities, Connie Taylor, VP of research and development of Manhattan Associates, said male professionals are starting to become more involved in the home, as well.

“More men are sharing in parenting,” said Taylor. “They ask for time for school events or to pick up the kids. They want to spend more time at home and are more comfortable discussing it.”

Panelists also agreed that finding mentors who provide career advice and sponsors who help propel your career advancement is vitally important for female IT and supply chain professionals.

“A mentor is someone who provides feedback to boost your confidence,” explained Kinder. “A sponsor is someone who believes in you and sells you to others.”

Moderator Rachel Mushahwar, global director of the retail enabling team for Intel, said there are core business benefits for including women at the highest levels of the business.

“There is a 57% performance increase when women are involved in senior management,” said Mushahwar. “Who do you think retailers target? Their consumers are women. Women influence 70% of household financial decisions.”

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