I was going to have to wait in line to use the restroom. And I couldn’t have been happier.
I’ve been attending my profession’s annual global conference since I was a junior in college in 1987 (I’ll let you do the math). There was often a line for the men’s room, but never for the women’s room. It was, we used to joke, one of the perks of attending our profession’s conference as a woman. You could get into the bathroom any time, no waiting. There just weren’t that many women in our industry.
And then, this year, it was different. I walked in to the restroom – and there was a line! I was a bit taken aback. I had been so used to attending the conference, and there never being a line. Another woman and I just stood there looking at each other, realizing we were sharing the same thought.
This was terrific!
That moment, we knew, represented a turning point. It’s something I am proud of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) for helping to make happen in our field. And it didn’t happen by mistake.
I was lucky – I was part of the first wave of women who benefited from my profession’s efforts to create opportunities for women. And it did take specific efforts! Over the years, CSCMP has worked tirelessly to help advance women in our profession. So have many great companies. So have the terrific universities and professors that are educating the next generation of Supply Chain Management professionals.
What did they do? They started by having the right conversations and asking the right questions. What can we do? How do we attract more women? How do we support them? They do research to show whether women truly are advancing in the field, and they actively seek out women to interest them in their profession, their university programs, their companies, and the terrific jobs this field provides.
Contrast this with the International Manufacturing and Technology Show I attended with one of my business partners a few weeks earlier in Chicago. There were more than 113,000 attendees at the conference. But twice during the four days we were there, I found I was the ONLY person in the women’s restroom. (It was sort of spooky, really.)
Two professions – very different gender balance.
There is tremendous opportunity today for women – in both supply chain management and in manufacturing technologies. We may have made more progress in supply chain management today, but we can do the same in manufacturing tomorrow. We’ll do it the way we do anything in the professional world. We’ll work at it. We’ll make an effort. And, women can lead the way by building these companies of the future.
I can’t wait to wait in more lines.