EBN’s Hailey McKeefry on Women in the Supply Chain Industry

Hailey McKeefryHailey McKeefry began her career in the supply chain industry in 1990 as an intern at EBN.  After quickly rising to the position of assistant editor, McKeefry left EBN and the industry to cover enterprise computing.  In 2012, she returned to the supply chain and to EBN as managing editor, and in 2014, she was promoted to her current role, editor in chief.

McKeefry’s decision to return to the supply chain industry was driven by the changing perception of the industry and an interest to get involved.

“I saw that the supply chain as a topic was taking center stage in the business world. Companies like Apple, Cisco and others live and die by their supply chain decisions. Clearly, procurement and supply chain now have a seat at the strategic table and are making real bottom-line contributions that are being recognized and valued.”

Four years later, McKeefry remains enthusiastic about the industry and about her role:

“I love the work because it provides an opportunity to talk about people, processes and technology, and to tackle a variety of topics from sustainability and human rights to technology and good business practices.  I enjoy the opportunity to create room for important conversations around leveraging new technology, managing risk, and implementing good business practices.”

Women in the supply chain industry

While there remains a gender gap in the supply chain industry, progress has been made.  McKeefry is a clear example of progress.  Her internship at EBN in 1990 was a “minority internship,” and today, 26 years later, she holds a leadership position within the company.

McKeefry is not alone.  At industry events McKeefry sees more female faces than she used to, and she has started to see women in high-powered positions.  She points to: Dawn Tiura, CEO of the Sourcing Interest Group (SIG), Deborah Wilson of Gartner, Christina Ruggiero, CPO of Coca-Cola Refreshment, and Jennifer Moceri, senior vice president/chief procurement officer at Tate & Lyle.

In March McKeefry interviewed Fluke Electronics’ Amy Georgi, the first woman to be named the Megawatt winner in the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars recognition program, a jointly sponsored initiative of ThomasNet and Institute for Supply Management (ISM).

McKeefry believes that the changes within the supply chain industry are largely being driven by a “high-level awareness of the importance of closing the gender gap and, more importantly, efforts by many organizations to create opportunities to attract and retain female talent.”  Another driving force McKeefry points to is research which shows that organizations with female leadership, or at least a board that has a good gender balance, do better financially.

“Forward-thinking organizations,” points out McKeefry, “are creating opportunities for women by providing mentors and role models, opportunities for advancement, and a chance to think creatively about how jobs are structured.”

“What’s important to note,” McKeefry continues, “is that all of this is also on the wishlist for millennial workers, as well, making it a solid business strategy.”

Despite these positive changes, McKeefry shares that young women still have a hard time finding a female role model and mentor in the supply chain industry.  She notes that “it becomes a chicken-and-egg situation of women needing role models before they can become role models themselves.”

What advice does McKeefry have for women considering entering the industry?

“Don’t be afraid to pursue leadership positions and to embrace your own gifts, strengths, and experience to the industry. Make sure that the organization knows (in bottom-line dollars and cents) how supply chain professionals are contributing in strategic ways to the bottom line of the organization, and about how your leadership is part of that. It’s been well documented that quietly contributing doesn’t move a supply chain career forward.”

As a broad generalization, women contribute in unique ways to building the critical relationships within the organization, and that can’t be underestimated. In short, I don’t think women in the supply chain industry should emulate men, but instead should leverage the unique qualities that they bring to the good of the organization.

Relevant articles by McKeefry: