Danielle Hansen smiling for a picture.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Breaking Barriers: The Rising Influence of Women in Supply Chain Management

The field of supply chain management is undergoing a transformative shift as more women step into traditionally male-dominated roles like negotiations and executive leadership. Two decades ago, when I started my career, I was often the only woman in the room, younger than my colleagues by 30+ years. While work is being done to improve investments in the field, parity is yet to be achieved.

Historically, supply chain management was perceived as a sector where physical labor, logistical expertise and negotiation were primarily managed by men. Today, the field is becoming more diverse, however, with women bringing new innovation and voices to the table. As an instructor teaching negotiation strategy and supply chain management, it is exciting to see more women enrolling in these courses than ever before.

While progress is encouraging, invisible barriers still exist. Even with 20 years of experience, I often find myself as the only woman at a supplier business dinner, supplier meeting or negotiations. If you’d asked me at the beginning of my career whether I thought this would be the case 20 years later, I would have said no.

Change is possible. There are actions that business leaders can take within their organizations to improve gender equity in supply chain management and other industries.

Change is possible. There are actions that business leaders can take within their organizations to improve gender equity in supply chain management and other industries.”

Danielle Hansen ’04, ’09 MBA

The influence of women in evolving supply chains

Today, the evolving nature of the industry demands strategic planning, technological savviness, complex problem-solving skills, and the ability to build relationships while in high-stress situations, globally.

Think back to the past three years when global supply chains were constrained by pandemic-related challenges, such as lack of capacity, employee shortages, increased demand, and poor risk mitigation planning within companies. The pandemic heightened everyone’s understanding of supply chain – we all experienced empty grocery store shelves while shopping for toilet paper, hand sanitizer and masks.

Women leaders in this field are responding to these challenges by prioritizing communication, collaboration and long-term relationship-building with suppliers. This approach helps create more resilient and transparent supply chains – a key element in a company’s overall health. But without better representation, it’s difficult for women leaders to fully support customers.

To remain competitive in 2024 and beyond, companies must invest in diversifying their supply chains by supporting professionals working in the supply chain, suppliers, and making further investments in environmental and social sustainability programs.

Taking action to support women in supply chain management

For women entering or growing their careers in supply chain management, and for men managing female colleagues, consider the following.

  1. Recognize and embrace your unique voice. Each person brings unique perspectives, experiences and ideas. Throughout my career, my different viewpoints were often seen as threats because they challenged established norms. Although this can be draining as a young professional in a male-dominated field, it’s vital to stay true to your voice and the value you provide.
  2. Don’t lose focus on your voice and the unique perspective that you bring. It’s easy to stop contributing and blend into the background but remember you’re here for a reason. Embrace that unique perspective and let it be heard. Younger generations need to see you succeed.
  3. Find the place that values you for the unique contributions you bring to the organization. This is important regardless of the sector that you are in. When you have people who support you and are willing to invest in you, you will thrive.
  4. Give back. Pull up and support. As you progress in your career, spend time giving back by mentoring and sponsoring professionals with unique perspectives. If you see someone’s voice being silenced, offer your support. If someone talks over them, intervene. Remaining silent and letting it occur is just as bad as silencing someone yourself.
  5. Create your network and surround yourself with other women. If you don’t have women in your network, seek them out. Women who succeed in male-dominated fields have a significant impact on the industry and society, fostering inclusive workplaces and driving positive change.

Throughout my career, I’ve had many moments that have stopped me in my tracks. From sales executives and CEOs who refuse to recognize me because I’m not a male, to being informed at a business meeting that they don’t work with women.

Or those who immediately provide all their attention to the male in the room who is significantly junior in experience and title. Some of these biases even come from other women.

Or to the male who tells me, “Honey, if you think this is a negotiation, you have another thing coming.” Women in this field are continuously met with unique challenges.

So why am I still here despite these challenges? It’s simple – I truly love what I do. Supply chain management offers unique challenges that push me to grow and learn.

I want to inspire young women to see role models in areas that they’re passionate about. If we can be here to make an impact, so can they.

Danielle Hansen ’04, ’09 MBA is a vice president of global sourcing at JBT Corporation and an adjunct at the University of St. Thomas with extensive experience in international supplier relationship management, negotiation and continuous improvement. She is also the president of Strategic Training Endeavors, a published author of Upward: Leadership Lessons for Women on the Rise, and the board chair of Girls Are Powerful. A double Tommie, Hansen graduated cum laude with a triple major in legal studies in business, Spanish, and operations management and completed her MBA with a focus on international marketing. With certifications in Lean and Six Sigma Black Belt and Certified Professional in Supply Management, Hansen has received numerous awards and continues to train individuals and companies on negotiation, contract management, and strategy while pursuing her passion for improving people's lives.