It’s not every day that I get interviewed by a colleague and a friend, but when it happens, boy is it a treat. Last month, I had the joy and honor of speaking with Sarah Barnes-Humphrey, host of the “Let’s Talk Supply Chain” podcast. As two women who have successfully climbed the ladder in a predominantly male industry, we discussed how leveraging thought leadership, transferable skills, and building a supportive tribe helped bring us to where we are today. Here’s a little more on our December 2023 chat.
Reflecting on my journey in supply chain
In our interview, I shared more detail about my 20 years in the manufacturing industry, starting in maintenance, process, quality engineering and subsequently shifting to planning and purchasing. As an experienced and seasoned technology innovator who identifies more as a practitioner, I’ve helped shape the way Nulogy, a software solution provider for manufacturers and their extended supply chains, educates the market around the emerging space of Multi-Enterprise Collaboration. Not a simple undertaking, but one that I’ve approached with excitement.
Reflecting upon my multi-faceted career, we discussed a golden nugget that I thought was so profound: As women, we have to know when our transferable skills may be better used somewhere else. Sometimes, we have to know when to listen to our gut and not sit in a position for too long… something I’m personally all too familiar with and have navigated through during various parts in my career. I’m grateful to Sarah for opening up the space to be able to touch on this topic.
Building a tribe: Women in the supply chain workforce
As women’s presence in the supply chain workforce continues to increase, there are some unavoidable trends that perhaps, if identified, can create opportunities for betterment and change. One, for example, is the perceived habit of women avoiding self-promotion. Sarah and I briefly touched on this, pondering: “Why is it so uncomfortable to self-promote? Why is it so hard, as a woman, to call yourself a leader?”
We hypothesized that such behavior could label someone like this as arrogant, or that it works against the stereotypical construct of how women should act. Whatever the reason may be, it suits us to rally for ourselves and to support our fellow female warriors who are in the thick and deserving of praise.
…People don’t just notice that you’re doing great things. You have to take credit for your work; you have to be proud.– Christine Barnhart
Men in our industry, we noticed, have a wonderful habit of sharing business with each other; lifting each other up through interconnection and moving one another forward. How do we, as women, duplicate and even improve on this ingrained behavior? How do we invest in ourselves more? And, just as importantly, get paid well for work versus offering to do things for free? Ask for the money, right?
I think our generation [needs] to make sure that other women early on in their careers understand what it means to champion others. [We need] it a lot earlier rather than later.
Think about it…female-to-female mentorship and the skillset of lifting each other up could be a game changer for the younger generations as they progress personally and professionally.
We found it important to note that while the 90s and early 2000s may not have necessarily provided workforce females with the luxury of championing our younger up-and-comers, there’s more flexibility now that gives more energy and mindfulness for that service.
Personally, my journey has hinged on the fact that I’ve built a tribe. It doesn’t matter who you know; it matters who is willing to speak on your behalf when you’re not in the room. And I think it’s the prioritization of building a support group who values your thought leadership and positivity, whether you’re male or female, that will elevate your career potential and create a stronger, more resilient community for all.
As our discussion came to a close, we found ourselves circling back to the following themes regarding women in the workforce:
- Champion for ourselves and for our fellow female colleagues and allies, despite how uncomfortable it may feel to do so. It’s all muscle memory; the more you do it, the more natural it will feel!
- Recognize your transferable skills, whether they’re innate or through gained experience, and leverage them to your benefit. Staying stagnant won’t bring you value – know when it’s time to move on to a new opportunity. By doing so, you’ll also provide space for fresh ideas in your former position.
- Build a tribe that you can be vulnerable with and who won’t sugarcoat reality to you. That means sometimes having to hear things you don’t want to hear. These are the same people who will recommend you and praise your name when you’re not around. True allyship!
If you’re interested in following my professional journey and joining my tribe, I welcome the opportunity to connect on LinkedIn. Building a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion in the supply chain takes a village, and I look forward to growing together!