Supply chain issues catapulted into prominence along with the pandemic, creating opportunities for supply chain leaders. Other positive developments have reshaped the environment as well. The demand for talent in supply chain management, procurement and logistics has been growing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, the volume of women in supply chain careers jumped 6% between 2016 and 2021, reported Gartner research. These are significant changes for a male-dominated industry that has had a less-than-exciting image, says Amanda Batchelet, vice president of supply chain at Total Wine & More, a multibillion-dollar company based in Bethesda, Md.
“Supply chain used to be known for not having enough excitement, or flashiness, but that is shifting rapidly,” Batchelet explains. “As a result of the pandemic, the entire supply chain has been rocked, and we need to constantly think about new ways of working and problem solving. That means leaders need to be flexible and resilient, and creatively manage problems on the fly,” she adds.
Batchelet didn’t start out looking for a career in supply chain management. “I didn’t even know what supply chain was until I graduated from college and was in a career,” she says. Her first job after college was at Hecht’s, a now-shuttered department store that was a division of The May Department Stores Company. There, she moved from an executive training program to become a buyer managing a $60 million business. After Hecht’s, some former colleagues recruited her to work as a buyer for Total Wine & More for 10 years before shifting into planning and other strategic initiatives at the same company.
“A lot of what’s happened in my career I had to fight for and constantly advocate for myself and have others advocating for me. I focused on delivering strong results and have had to work to grow my confidence to champion and advocate for myself. Unfortunately, in a male-dominated industry and field, women often need to spend more time on self-advocating. You can’t always deliver strong results and assume people will see that. You need to be your own best advocate.”
How to find and work with mentors
Support also came from her mentors, Batchelet says. Two of them were previous managers, neither of whom worked in supply chain. Both have continued to be her mentors. One mentor “helps by bringing me along into conversations, opportunities and roles,” Batchelet says. The other “primarily helps me with my professional image. They help me get off the roller coaster, meaning if frustrations were starting, they’d help me avoid exposure to situations that wouldn’t be the best for me.”
How do people find mentors like those? Batchelet recommends being strategic and proactive. “A mentorship has to be run by the mentee,” she explains. “So, you really need to lay out, ‘Why do I need a mentor? What am I looking for in that relationship?’” As part of that assessment, “craft or articulate where you need help or where your strengths are that need to be continually honed. Then have those points at the ready.”
Batchelet suggests scheduling exploration meetings with potential mentor matchmakers — key people in your network such as your manager, an HR executive in your organization or people you’ve met at industry conferences or meetings. Then, go over your bullet points to let the matchmaker know what you need and are looking for.
Facing off against biases
When it comes to image and exposure, the standards for women and men can vary, according to Batchelet. “I’ll be very direct with people, call out cliché things and do my best to make it a little uncomfortable with the intent of helping bring them along and knock down biases with me. I work hard and push to get what’s due to me.”
Batchelet uses various approaches to help break up biases. For example, she works with the HR team to mix up the candidate pool and encourages leadership to avoid making decisions in silos. In Batchelet’s view, a diverse representation of leaders is best to make decisions that will impact a diverse organization.
Layering on confidence
Women progressing into leadership roles in supply chain may lack confidence, Batchelet says. She shared an example of using preparation and reconnaissance to build confidence in a demanding situation. She was scheduled to present to the company’s executive leadership team (ELT) and knew she would be the only woman in the room. First, she asked for advice from a couple of trusted colleagues. “Next, I ran the deck past a member of the executive leadership team who was going to be in that meeting,” she says. She wanted to get an idea of whether her message was going to hit the mark.
After the presentation, Batchelet scheduled meetings with some of the ELT members to get feedback. “Even now, I seek specifics to understand what areas I have excelled in and can feel confident about and what areas I need to work on or could have handled differently,” she says. “Then I build on those.”
“You are the one who is going to build your confidence,” Batchelet continues. “You have to seek out that feedback to help your confidence. It’s not something that’s naturally going to happen.”
Advice to advance
Batchelet offers three pieces of advice for women working in supply chain. First, understand that we’re all just human. All individuals alike have fears, challenges and things to work on, she says. “Second, learn to speak up. There is an art to speaking your mind and having the team or leadership truly hear it. Third, build up your advocates. As you progress, it’s increasingly important to have a team of cross-functional peers, leaders and team members who know you and will uplift you.”
What about dealing with the frustration that her mentor helped her with? Take action, Batchelet advises. “When you’re frustrated, don’t just wallow. Make a plan and execute against it.”
Amanda was interviewed by Ben YoKell, Managing Director and Practice Leader for Grant Thornton LLP’s Sourcing and Supply Chain team. Grant Thornton’s supply chain team aims to increase gender parity by fostering a culture of belonging and community through attraction, retention, and advancement of diverse talent within the team.
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