Why the Women in Supply Chain Forum is More Than a Conference

The Women in Supply Chain Forum is a collective where men and women gather to improve and build skillsets, foster new ideas and make long lasting connections that improve the supply chain. It's more than a conference.

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"It's not a conference, it's a forum." That was a comment I heard as the 2023 Women in Supply Chain Forum concluded. What does that mean exactly? As attendees buzzed with conversations surrounding the impact of women supporting women and collaboration, there was an air of comradery that helped break the ice between women, and men, that walked away as future connections and friends. That's the stuff forums are made of. 

A 2019 study on thousands of speaker events across various industries found that on average more than two-thirds (66%) of all speakers between 2013 and 2019 were male, while just one-third (33%) were female. With a lack of representation on the stage, whether it be by gender, race, etc., most conferences leave minority groups feeling underrepresented and uncomfortable. This was a resounding theme at this year's Women in Supply Chain event, as we shared the intimate side of our individual experiences at conferences that were attended by a predominantly male audience, in a statistically male heavy industry. 

That wasn't the only intimate discussion though. Through the keynote given by Katie Date, SVP, industry relations and strategic initiatives at Manifest, the event kicked off with a single idea: be vulnerable. Katie touched on the importance to go for the money and consider your successes and failures as a steppingstone, a learning opportunity, that can help you grow and influence your confidence along the way. Be bold, be loud and it's totally ok to be "too much" because authenticity is always better received.  

"Don't be afraid to move on," said Christine Barnhart, chief marketing and industry officer for Nulogy, as she and Daisy Jiang, director of marketing for Nulogy, discussed finding where you feel comfortable in your field — and finding the courage to make changes, in yourself or in your workplace, as you grow and evolve. 

Discussing DEI initiatives that support and foster diversity, Dr. Erez Agmoni, global head of innovation for Maersk, joined Nicole Glenn, founder of Candor Expedite, and Lisa Henshaw, VP of resources at DAT Freight & Analytics, in a session that brought about many questions and collaborative answers on creating a better path towards celebrating our differences and promoting real inclusion. 

In a world where virtual workplaces are now common, Charlie Saffro, president and founder of CS Recruiting, talked about flexibility and understanding the nuances of remote work today. She explained why being keen to the way we connect through tech and using mutual understanding for others make a position more desirable, and how implementing these ideas into your workplace can foster community. 

The roles of women in supply chain are far from the days of old. Today, women do it all, but when it comes to women in STEM and the manufacturing industry, there is still a gap. Gretchen Moore, executive director of Women in Manufacturing’s (WiM) Education Foundation, described the ladder of growth for women in STEM as a lattice that has many different avenues available, and bringing awareness to the opportunities unlocks the potential for girls and young women to gain interest. 

In the breakout session with Katie Date, conversations took off in an effort to define what mentorship means to each of us. A common theme of quality communication and mutual respect laid out the key traits that made a mentee/mentor relationship valuable. There was one point that stuck out to me as the conversation flowed regarding the perception of leadership, where something as simple as a company's leadership page acts as a reflection of the company culture and gives prospects a window into the types of people at the company that would or could leave them feeling supported, included and comfortable in their position. 

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey, founder of Let’s Talk Supply Chain and Blended Pledge project, and Marina Mayer, editor-in-chief of Supply & Demand Chain Executive and Food Logistics, invited the two overall Women in Supply Chain award winners to the stage to give testimony about how they became pivotal women in their sectors. Tiffany Mensen, director, national accounts for CHEP, and Debbie Yu, co-founder and president of ISEE.AI, discussed self-confidence and self-advocacy as pieces of the puzzle for women to thrive in male dominated spaces and lift each other up in the process. At the end, all award winners of the 2023 Women in Supply Chain award were recognized and celebrated in roaring cheers and applause — proving for the 2nd year in a row that women love to see other women succeed. 

So yeah, it's not just some conference. The Women in Supply Chain Forum is a collective where men and women gather to improve and build skillsets, foster new ideas and make long lasting connections that improve the supply chain. Proof that taking a little time to be a little more open with ourselves, and others, lights a spark that ignites a flame to carry on change from each and every person who attended.