Australia's multi-billion dollar supply chain industry must close its gender gap and attract fresh talent if it wants to grow to meet an increasingly automated future.
That's the message of a new program from Deakin University, aiming to address a workplace gender gap that sees some supply chain companies where less than one in 10 employees are women, and a gender pay gap of 21.8 per cent.
'Wayfinder: Supply Chain Careers for Women' is an initiative of Deakin's Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics, and is funded by 13 foundation sponsors, made up of some of the industry's biggest players.
The Wayfinder initiative will be launched by Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO in Geelong today, marking International Women's Day, the first in a series of luncheons to be held across the country.
Director of the Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics Dr Hermione Parsons said the luncheons were designed to link company demand for talented female workers with women and girls across the community, and offered the opportunity to hear from inspirational women working in the industry.
"These events form an important part of a three-year project to bring new talent into the supply chain industry," Dr Parsons said.
"This will be supported by a program of research, new resources to help people better understand the industry and its career opportunities, plus the establishment of Deakin graduate pathways to meet the demand for talented workers."
Dr Parsons said the supply chain industry was currently experiencing a rapid period of change, with huge technological advances, increasing automation and globalisation of trade.
"New talent and skills are desperately needed, but currently we're only accessing 50 per cent of the talent.
"Ultimately supply chain has an image problem. We must change how the community sees supply chain and understands its enormous significance to the national economy if we're going to turnaround a rapidly ageing and male-dominated workforce."
Dr Parsons said that was hard when most people did not know what 'supply chain' actually was, despite more than one million jobs in Australia being tied to supply chain related activities.
"Simply put, a supply chain is everything and everybody involved in bringing a product to a consumer," she said.
"Supply chains make our modern lives possible. There would be no supplies in our hospitals, food in our supermarkets, or products in our stores if it were not for supply chains that move all of these goods from being just raw materials all the way to the finished products in our hands."
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency's (WGEA) 2016-17 reporting data women made up just over a quarter of the transport, postal and warehousing workforce last financial year. Some of the companies supporting the Wayfinder program reported a percentage of women employees in the single figures for 2016-17.
Belinda Flynn is the General Manager of Health Safety and Environment at Qube, Australia's largest integrated provider of import and export logistics, and is a driving force behind Wayfinder.
Ms Flynn said many people outside the industry thought jobs in supply chain were all about driving trucks or moving containers on a wharf, but that was a misconception.
"Supply chains are experiencing enormous growth and retailer groups are becoming more sophisticated in how they move goods through their distribution channels," she said.
"The industry needs a different capability within their talent pool. We're seeing the need to recruit for different types of jobs such as automation or robotics technicians, as well as innovation and IT specialists.
"This presents a golden opportunity for women to enter new career paths in supply chain today, and for young girls to choose courses now to get the best supply chain jobs of tomorrow."
Wayfinder is supported by Qube, ARTC, Woolworths, Lion, Toll, Viva Energy, Linx Cargo Care, VICT, DP World, Coca-Cola Amatil, Nestle, Kalari HSE and CC Containers.
19 July 2017
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