Arrow Electronics’ Cathy Morris talks women in the supply chain

Cathy MorrisCathy Morris, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for Arrow Electronics, Inc., talks women in the supply chain and offers up career advice

Men hold 95% of top level supply chain positions within Fortune 500 companies.  Outside the corner office things aren’t much better; between 70% and 80% of positions within the supply chain industry are held by men.  Cathy Morris, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for Arrow Electronics, Inc., defies these statistics.  Morris discusses her career and the gender gap in an interview:

Only a small percentage of top level positions in Fortune 500 companies are held by women.  Within the supply chain industry this percentage is even smaller.  How did you get to where you are today?

I’d like to say that I chose the supply chain, but the reality is that I stumbled into it.  I was working in finance as a corporate controller when the company for whom I was working was purchased by Arrow.  My position was eliminated; however, an individual within Arrow came to me and suggested that I stay with the company albeit in a different department. He suggested that I take my practical experience in finance and my expertise in making businesses better and “do something different.”  I did do something different – I went from being a corporate controller to running a series of warehouses.

Products can be made, money can be invested, ideas can be brought to fruition, but without the supply chain everything stops.  The supply chain provides routes to market; everything hinges on an effective supply chain.

I decided I need to identify what I needed to know so that I could sit at the table.  I invested between 12 and 18 months in roles, from logistics to sales, throughout the company.  When I started each role I identified what I could learn from the role, what I could contribute, and what milestone I could attain.

As one of the few women in the supply chain and one of the few women in an executive position what challenges have you experienced?

While I have had incredible mentors few have been women.  There are, as you said, not a lot of women at the table.  I would say that 90% of the time I am the only woman in the room.

What can women who are in the supply chain do to support each other and how can the supply chain attract more women to the field?

It is the responsibility of women to invest in each other and to help each other.  This is important in building a better organization.  A better organization is not about the numerical statistics related to   diversity.  A better organization is about better decision-making. Diversity is essential for companies; diversity enables better decision making and diminishes group think.

Change starts from the top down.  If you are interviewing for a position and everyone is of the same gender and race, be bold – ask if inclusion is a top priority for the company.  Ask what the company is doing to increase diversity.

The supply chain needs to be rebranded. The perception is that when you work within the supply chain you are a second class citizen.  The reality is that in the absence of an effective supply chain the entire value proposition of a Company falls apart.  This is what we need to get out there.

What career advice can you offer?

Every career decision you make needs to reflect your personal goals; focus on the culture of company and how the position will enable you in your career.

When you leave a job it needs to be for a purpose.  You should never leave a job because you don’t like it, rather you should leave a job because you have achieved what you set out to do within that job.

If you don’t like your job, sit back and assess why you don’t like.  When you determine this, change what you don’t like about the job.

One of the most common reasons people leave their job is because they don’t like their boss.  This is not a reason to leave.  Bad bosses provide more learning than good bosses.  With bad bosses you learn what not to do – this is invaluable.

You manage your own career.  As long as you continue to manage your career you will be happy.  Once you stop managing it, you’ll be unhappy.

Cathy Morris is the senior vice president and chief strategy officer for Arrow Electronics, Inc..  Morris leads strategic initiatives for Arrow, including global merger and acquisition activity. She brings nearly 30 years of experience in the computer products and electronic components distribution industry, having previously served as president of Arrow’s enterprise computing solutions segment after holding senior positions in support service, finance and corporate development.

Prior to joining Arrow in 1994, Morris held financial leadership roles in the banking and manufacturing industries. She is a board member and chairs the audit committee for Graftech International, and she is a member of the Global Leadership Council at Colorado State University and the YWCA’s Society of Women Achievers.

In March 2015 Cathy Morris, was named to the National Diversity Council’s 2015 “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology.”  This is the second consecutive year Morris has been honored with this distinction.



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