Women have been making invaluable contributions to the supply chain and logistics community for decades. At our Elevate user conference, we’re hosting the Women Leaders in Supply Chain Luncheon to honor and empower women leaders in the industry. As a little history lesson, we pulled together a list of five inspirational women that have pushed the industry in their own unique ways.
Ann Drake — Founder of AWESOME
Ann Drake founded AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply chain Operations, Management, and Education) in 2012, two months after becoming the only woman ever to receive the Distinguished Service Award from Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP). Her achievement prompted her to consider why no women had been recognized by CSCMP over its 47 years as a leading industry body. She sought to identify any barriers that were preventing women from succeeding in supply chain management, and develop strategies to eliminate these obstacles.
AWESOME is a leadership initiative that helps women stake their claim in the logistics industry by providing opportunities for learning, mentorship, and professional growth. Drake continues to make great strides in creating spaces for women in a traditionally male-dominated field, while also ensuring women are fully supported in these spaces.
(And bonus points to Ann for creating an "awesome" acronym for this community.)
Megan Smith — CEO of Symbia Logistics
In 2009, Megan Smith decided to build on her family’s business legacy of over 150 combined years and propel it to new heights. Backed by certification from the National Women Business Owners Corporation, Smith went on to become CEO of Amware Logistics and rebrand the company as Symbia Logistics.
Smith takes pride in the fact that her successful shipping company is full of women leaders. She supports putting women in critical roles not to fill a quota, but because she wants gutsy, passionate, and dedicated risk-takers working for her. Thanks to Smith’s innovative approach, Symbia is a shining example of what can happen when gender diversity initiatives are built into a company from the ground up.
Edwina Justus — Railroad Engineer, Pioneer
Railroads served as the original mode of transportation in supply chain before 1900, with the ablity to move goods faster and further than ever before. Railroad was easier and more cost efficient than ships or horses, and thus ushered in a new era for the supply chain. Yet many of those who worked on the railroad — and ran the industry behind the scenes — were men.
In 1976, Edwina “Curly” Justus became the first black female locomotive engineer to work for Union Pacific Railroad. She started out as a traction motor clerk and kept chugging along over the next 22 years shipping livestock, airplane wings, and cars to Wyoming and Colorado. Justus is one of the first of many pivotal women who would go on to make their mark in .
Ellen Voie — President and CEO of Women in Trucking Association
Trucking is a key part of the logistics industry, but according to Indeed, only eight percent of all truck drivers are women. Ellen Voie, president and CEO of Women in Trucking Association, is working to change that. As a well-respected authority on gender and inclusion in non-traditional work settings, Voie travels all over the world to give talks and empower women in the trucking industry.
In 2012, Voie was named one of the White House’s Transportation Innovators for Change, and has since gone on to win numerous awards in her field. As logistics and supply chain management moves further toward diversity and inclusion, having women in power who uplift other women in a historically male-dominated industry is crucial.
Melonee Wise — CEO of Fetch Robotics
And in a fitting way to close this article, we mention a leader that is helping to forge the future of supply chain solutions as a robotics innovator. Melonee Wise is the CEO of Fetch Robotics, which produces autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that make it easier to find, track, and move inventory. So far, the company has raised $99 million in total funding and has several hundred robots deployed in 11 countries around the world.
We’re also honored to say that Wise will be a at our Elevate 2020 conference. With her expertise in robotics as well as building diverse leadership opportunities in the supply chain, we can’t wait to see what she has to say about the future of the industry.
Continuing to Break the Mold
While the industry is often seen as a male-dominated field, women have made invaluable contributions as trailblazers, leaders, and disruptors. And leadership opportunities for women are only expected to grow. In fact, according to 2018 research from AWESOME and Gartner on women in the supply chain, women remain steadily represented in positions of power year after year. Further, 50 percent of companies are (wisely) pledging their commitment to improving gender diversity.
This list only scratches the surface — hundreds more remarkable individuals are leading the charge in logistics and . At , we’re committed to the empowerment of women, celebrating women’s contributions to supply chain management, and providing opportunities for advancement.
That’s why we started the Women Leaders in Supply Chain Luncheon in 2016. Each year, supply chain industry leaders gather from around the world to celebrate women’s growing role in the field of logistics. When we give out WLSC awards to amazing women like those mentioned above, we’re reiterating our belief that logistics and supply chain management is at its best when it’s diverse and inclusive.
If you liked this post, stay tuned for more as we announce our Top Leaders in Supply Chain winners at the Elevate Women Leaders in Supply Chain Luncheon.