When I (PowerON Services) was asked if I would be interested in sponsoring RLA‘s first Women in Reverse Logistics Luncheon, I casually responded, “Sure, why not?” After all, this is an association that I have attended since 2004 and I always felt strongly about the importance of seeing more women in this industry. I don’t think I fully grasped what this could be all about until I started to put some thought to what our discussions should be focusing on.
Statistics show women make up 35% of the workforce, yet fill only 15% of the Director level or higher positions. It seems that gender disparity at higher executive levels is still very much a reality. With challenges come opportunity for change, and presented a great opportunity for RLA and for PowerOn to host a VIP luncheon for women in reverse logistics.
The response to the invitation was resounding and the attendance went well past the original estimates. The result was a room filled with women ranging from interns to industry veteran executive level professional women in leadership roles in supply chain and reverse logistics industry. All were willing to share their ideas, experiences and advice.
Some of those who participated included: Julie Ryan /HP, Connie Long/ iQor, Lisa Cotter/Best Buy, Sylvie Thompson/ Infosys, Joyce Cruts/Acer, Brie Lieto/Whirlpool, Eileen McKeown/Amazon, Cathi Coan/Techway Services, Kathy Murphy/Vista Outdoor, Jennifer Foxworthy/PC-Doctor, and approximately 40 more women, so it was a truly great representative cross section from the industry.
The event provided a buffet style lunch with round tables to encourage introductions, interaction and networking as we ate. Our distinguished guest speaker, Pat Daugherty, is a Professor of Supply Chain Management at Iowa State University who holds the Debbie and Jerry Ivy Chair in Business. She has a Ph.D. from Michigan State University, a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. from Western Michigan University. Pat provided a very informative presentation titled, “Women in Reverse Logistics and Supply Chain: I’ve Got Some Good News and Bad News.”
She shared “17 Reasons Women Make Great Leaders,” by Brittney Helmrich and 5 common behaviors that hinder women’s careers, which set the stage for some lively discussion and idea exchange. The 5 hindering behaviors were:
• Focus only on performance
– What about image? Exposure?
• Staying silent (there’s been a lot about that on the news lately)
• Competing with (instead of supporting) other women
• Not making time to network
• Giving up after a failure
After reviewing the 5 common behaviors that hinder women’s careers, Pat offered her advice to help women overcome these behaviors. Some of the solutions included
• Develop further skills, in communication, problem solving, leadership
• Move out of your comfort zone
• The importance of networking and much more.
The level of participation and sharing at all levels within the group was astounding. One participant highlighted her own personal experience and the importance of connecting with a mentor/sponsor at your employer and how having the opportunity to engage with a sponsor can help further your career. Others spoke about the need for Corporations to provide more focused resources for the development of women leaders and how many parental leave policies still reinforce out-of-date gender roles.
I felt as though everyone was candid about the challenges they’d faced and successes, which helped us relate to one another. Pat’s presentation and information encourages logistics leaders to put women’s career advancement on their agenda and make a commitment to promoting diversity throughout their organizations. I love seeing women supporting women. The overall message is that men and women working together make better decisions.
It was just an amazing event, where women were networking with old friends and meeting new friends, exchanging stories and business cards and the networking and discussions continued after the luncheon! We have received very positive feedback and many requests for RLA to continue sponsoring a “Women in Reverse Logistics” event for next year and for years to come. There were also suggestions to form a Women’s Committee as well. We even had requests from some of our male RLA Members to be included as they champion and support the advancement of women in their own companies and genuinely want to find ways to make it better! It was a success and it is safe to say there will be more Women in Reverse Logistics events to come! PowerOn was honored to Sponsor the very first such event!
Please contact the RLA with your ideas and suggestions for future Women in Reverse Logistics events.