The Headhunter, a career accelerator for women in Supply Chain?

Expert opinion

Margaux ARTHUIS, Consultant at Stypers Consulting
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The Head Hunter has always been perceived as the Expert in his sector. Nestled in the shadows, they anticipate market upheavals and adapt their hunting strategy accordingly for their Clients. 30 years ago, no one was talking about headhunting. Consequently, Transport and Logistics were recruiting from within, without anyone's help.

In order to consolidate the growth of these family businesses, on the verge of becoming large international groups, Stypers Consulting was the first Firm to offer Talent from the automotive sector, trained as Engineers and trained in Lean Methods. And it was the same for women! Stypers Consulting is first and foremost the story of a woman, Claudine Stypers, who was able to establish herself in a male-dominated sector by creating her Firm more than 20 years ago. 

We have always had this very special place of being recognized as Experts while being women. It is therefore quite natural that we have been at the forefront in proposing female profiles, for CODIR and COMEX positions (Platform, Agency, Country Directors, etc.).

Gradually, the need to convince Managers has lessened regarding the sharing of business expertise between men and women. Higher education has also increasingly attracted female profiles. As for social and political advances with parity, for example, they have continued to introduce women into this landscape of Transport, Logistics and Supply Chain.

However, we are not yet convinced that their place is acquired at 100%. Their motivations, their backgrounds, their ambitions are however the same as men. But what about their career development? How do we still perceive the existing obstacles and what is our role vis-à-vis these women who entrust us with their ambition?


Women in Supply Chain: what for?

Women have thus been welcomed into the world of Supply Chain, mainly thanks to “parity” which has allowed them to gain a foothold in this very masculine world. For several years, we have been able to see a real evolution. According to a study conducted by Gartner in 2020, just over 4 out of 10 positions in the Supply Chain are occupied by women (41%). Figures which attest to the importance of their place within the Supply Chain. Many women therefore joined operational and functional positions, but also executive positions. For a minority of them, it was possible to integrate the CODIR and COMEX of large companies and therefore to be decision-makers at the highest level.

Thus, for several years, women have continued to integrate and evolve in their positions in Supply Chain, Logistics and Transport. They are even described as more sensitive, endowed with a certain empathy. They communicate better than men and show more patience. Their Management is also often opposed to the directive Management which was used and feared by teams for so long. They put themselves more easily in the shoes of their colleagues and therefore use more adapted and participatory management.

Unfortunately, they are too often defined by their interpersonal skills and not by their technical skills. Women know that they need to be technically credible to be perceived as legitimate in the eyes of their male colleagues. This is the reason why they tend to train more and thus assert themselves through ultra-qualification. THE soft kills are also a way for them to justify their technical performance. As a result, we are convinced that the Headhunter plays an essential role and can be an actor in this change.


The interview promotes taking charge of the careers of women in Supply Chain

We know many women in Supply Chain who are technically excellent and for whom the future promises a great career. Unfortunately, for the majority of them, it is not easy to highlight their expertise, which they too often leave in the background during their professional interview. The interview is therefore a key step. We prepare them to defend their skills above all and not just their interpersonal skills. Although this is what they put forward first, we show them that it is not only for soft skills that they will be recruited. Their technical skills, derived from their professional experience, are also essential.

Therefore, we train them to synthesize and make salient these key skills sought by the Market. Subsequently, we support them in enhancing their skills in terms of salary. Few women are comfortable with the question of salary expectations. They often seek personal development and are more inclined to maintain a salary, even if the position represents progress in their professional career.

Our goal is not to transform this step into « shallot race », to who will be the best paid. Conversely, we want to reestablish a balance between the technical skills they have and the value that these skills have on the Market. In our role as Headhunter, we have an in-depth view of salary practices in the Supply sector. This insight into Company pay scales, but also into these “fashion” effects of certain positions, makes us all the more legitimate in this support.

Our positioning is resolutely on the side of candidates, who face the Market find themselves in the same uncomfortable situation of having to put themselves forward and prove their worth. We ensure that our candidates, whom we consider to be our Clients, receive advice tailored to their needs. Women need to be aware of the skills they offer and their salary value. In this way, men and women can apply for jobs using the same method and the same efficiency. It is vital to get rid of the idea that people skills are gender-specific.

In addition, in 2020, the occupancy rate of executive positions by women was 17%, which is shocking. We are still far from 50%… Very far from this point of balance between men and women in Business. Could this be explained by a lack of ambition or simply by an unrealizable ambition?


Ambition and women: I love you, me neither

Just like a man, a woman is driven by her ambitions and aspires to progress peacefully in her career. But this is where the gap widens. Overall and historically, career advancement is more easily accessible to men.

For more than 20 years, we have been able to interact with a large number of women who wanted to change positions or continue to evolve within their Company. It is no surprise that we have continued to see the same obstacles for over 20 years. You guessed it, it’s about motherhood and mobility.

In this sense, women are much less flexible than men in their travel or schedules. This also creates a feeling of guilt for some and they do not feel justified in receiving a salary increase or a promotion. Concerning executive positions, as you can imagine, they are all the more inaccessible for a woman than for a man. However, there is a minority of women who have had to make life choices in order to achieve these positions. But at what cost ?

Neither man nor woman should have to choose between their career and their private life. Some Companies have understood this well and are realizing that organization is a key element in promoting the development of women within them. As a result, they encourage flexibility with teleworking or support parenthood with the provision of inter-company nursery, for example. It is essential that Companies reinvent themselves and evolve with the problems encountered on the ground. This is a subject to take into consideration to promote the integration of women in the Supply Chain at all levels.



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