Women leaders are constantly working to build the chain back smarter—against all odds and in an always-on, digital age and a fast-evolving industry landscape that’s actively reshaping the way people talk about supply chain. These female trailblazers are empowering more possibilities for a brighter future by introducing new operational concepts and fresh approaches to logistics. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we understand the power of women rallying behind one another to create a more inclusive and diverse logistics community and landscape.
Because when women support each other, we make meaningful progress—breaking through glass ceilings, professional barriers, stereotypes, and outdated gender roles. And at Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we’re dedicated to lifting up the voices of female leaders and bringing their work and achievements greater visibility. We’re proud to promote these innovative supply chain leaders and their relentless leaps forward to modernize the supply chain while forging a more vibrant and inclusive industry landscape.
Each month the Let’s Talk Supply Chain Women in Supply Chain series introduces the emerging and seasoned female thought leaders who are making moves and shaking up the logistics industry as we know it. They share who and what inspires them and how they drive real progress inside their organizations, industry, and community.
We explore the challenges women supply chain leaders face that all too often go unnoticed to celebrate their breakout achievements and the beginnings that positioned them for their recent success stories, ushering in change at businesses across the global supply chain. In our Women in Supply Chain series, female trailblazers across the globe and industry open up about their experience, career development tips, and musts for advancement in careers in supply chain. Keep reading for powerful leadership insights and expert guidance on becoming a supply chain leader.
This month, we’re proud to highlight supply chain and procurement executive and thought leader, Carine Toure Yemitia. Carine is the Regional Senior Procurement Officer for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), she recently served as the Head of Supply Chain Management at the African Union. Carine boasts nearly two decades of supply chain and operations experience, an MBA in Supply Chain Management, Logistics, and materials from KEDGE Business School and certifications in management and engineering and logistics from MDE Business School and Insitit National Polytechnique Félix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY de Yamoussoukro. She is a certified speaker and trainer and actively volunteers as the Chairperson of WiLAT Cote D’Ivoire, helping women in more than 30 countries make big moves in Logistics and Transport.
1. How did your supply chain journey start?
I have held leadership positions in various private and public companies for more than 20 years, including: Distribution, ICT, Automotive, Agricultural and international public fields. These opportunities have helped me improve my managerial capabilities, grow as a leader, and develop and streamline strategies and policies in an international environment. I graduated from the Felix Houphouet Boigny – National Polytechnic Institute of Ivory Coast in 2002 with an engineering degree in Logistics and Transport. I had already started working at SAPH (Société Africaine de Plantations d’Hévéas) as a Sales administration manager.
To increase my knowledge in Management and perform my technical capacities in Supply Chain Management within an international environment, I decided to apply for an MBA (specialized Supply Chain Management) at the Kedge Business School in France.
Since graduating from Kedge, I’ve worked in a variety of roles, including logistics manager, operations and quality manager, project logistics manager, and purchasing and logistics director—quickly growing my seniority and experience through a commitment to my work and values to help others succeed and move ahead.
I worked at international organizations and built my global professional network before moving on to work as Head of Procurement for an African organization in the Travel and Stores Division where I led a team of more than thirty members strong at the African Union in Addis Ababa. I pioneered strategic projects and decisions involving the whole organization represented across four continents. I also represented the African Union to enhance the organization’s reputation and visibility. Today, I am the Regional Senior Procurement Officer of the UN agency, IFAD – International Fund for Agricultural Development in charge of 24 countries in West and Central Africa.
2. How have mentors supported your career growth in the supply chain?
I met my supply chain mentor while working as a Logistics and Procurement Director where he was the Chief Executive Officer. To this day, he continues to mentor me by extending advice, challenging me to set my goals higher, and sharing knowledge and experience from his own career journey. He helps me learn to anticipate and avoid problems to save time, money, and other resources.
3. Tell us about what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry:
At twenty-eight years old, I was hired as the Purchasing and Logistics Director in a factory. It is quite challenging for a young manager to lead in logistics especially considering the African context when it comes to cultural cues and norms. On top of that, being a woman doesn’t make managing any simpler. In the African culture, power and authority are represented by a portion of elderly men. Having workers report to a woman manager is not a cultural or societal norm, and it’s still viewed by many as inappropriate. Women in a typical African society are expected to be well-behaved, make good wives, and not speak when their elders are talking. Their male counterparts, however, have an enormous amount of autonomy. The male-dominated logistics industry was also a barrier making things worse. Women in these types of environments face a variety of challenges, including damaging societal expectations and beliefs about womens’ limitations and leadership abilities; pervasive, outdated stereotypes of the “caring mother” or “office housekeeper,” and a lack of mentoring and career development opportunities. In spite of all these barriers, I work to find ways to gain recognition and acceptance as a leader. I have learned and practiced the principles of a strong mindset, growing people, and connecting with them—acting as a servant leader. I serve the people around me, first. I gain more professional momentum when I help others become leaders too. And like Tom Peters famously says: “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” That resonates with my approach and management style.
4. How did your passion for logistics start?
In 1998 when I was in my second year, I had to take the entrance exam for the engineering portion at my business school. There were four options, marketing was my first choice and logistics was my third. It was incredibly competitive with a limited number of admission placements. I kept hearing that the most important thing is to be admitted regardless of your preferred choice. I didn’t agree though, I wanted to enter my number one choice: Marketing.
When the results came in my father brought them on his way back to the garage with his car and he banged on the entrance gate. I was instantly alarmed, thinking this can’t be a good sign. Instead, he told me that I had been admitted to the engineering course but in the logistics area—my third choice.
I was happy to know that I wouldn’t be retaking my prior year, but devastated not to specialize in my first choice, marketing. I had imagined myself in marketing for so long that it felt impossible to see myself doing anything else. But, I couldn’t change the results, so I started researching the logistics field which I knew nothing about—literally nothing, I had zero information. So, I made an appointment with the president of the student engineers in logistics to learn more and he reassured me by providing more details, presenting me with opportunities, and showing me a future in supply chain, ripe with potential and possibilities. I took the plunge and went for it. I studied and worked hard to excel. I constantly researched logstics to learn more.
As Peter Drucker says, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” So, I did. I studied and worked hard to excel. I do a lot of research to learn.
After my program for logistics engineer, I started my career as a logistics assistant, then I quickly climbed the ladder in several private companies before becoming a logistics manager before I turned thirty. For more than 5 years, I have held a prestigious position in Supply Chain/Logistics on a continental scale. I share my experience with other young people to encourage them to enter the logistics industry.
Today, I am promoting all the opportunities in logistics, an area I wanted nothing to do with a little more than two decades ago. Even though it wasn’t part of “the plan,” pursuing logistics made me embrace working on myself and finding all the means to succeed, (usually in the form of technical training, managerial courses, apprenticeships, mentorships, etc.)
I’ve come such a long way. I was able to transform my “third choice” into a tremendous victory and an enduring and rewarding professional calling. My supply chain journey constantly reinforces the importance of adopting the right attitude to make the best of whatever situation we’re going through. We can’t change events, but we can decide how we are going to respond to them, it’s entirely up to us.
5. Is there anyone you admire professionally who influenced your work?
I admire Madam Mariam DAO Gabala, an Ivorian woman born in 1960 with proven credentials for her leadership and work in Africa and beyond. She was the chairperson of the Ivorian Football Federation, a male-dominated organization. Madam Gabala is also acknowledged for her important role and contribution for sustainable development, youth entrepreneurship, and financial inclusion of those in the most need, specifically women. She is very active in promoting and developing female leadership at every level of the African society. Madam Gabala is the President of the Coalition of Female Leaders of Côte d’Ivoire. I look up to her because she lives and breathes the professional values that motivate me as she works to help other women reach higher.
6. What does it mean to you to be featured in Women In Supply Chain?
Let’s Talk Supply Chain shares valuable content from global experts, and I am proud to be a part of that. This feature is an amazing opportunity to reach a broader audience of women in the industry as a resource they know and trust. I’m also proud to represent the women in supply chain in Africa where logistics is not so well known, and we are doing our best to make a difference and change the game. I also want to share about the international organization, WiLAT, Women in Logistics and Transport. It is the female branch of CILT, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, a century-old organization.
7. What advice do you have for women looking to start in the supply chain industry?
You have to keep the focus on others and be people-oriented. Be ready to learn more about yourself and build your own strengths to gain momentum and efficiency in your work and home life. Focus on being results-oriented. Excellence is an enduring value. Even when you’re working to empower others, you’re still coaching and helping them to deliver their best. Try to find a balance—that is real life. Finally, never give up. You need to be resilient and ready to learn and listen to managers and mentors. Find someone who inspires you with shared values who you can learn from in your professional space.
8. What’s next on your supply chain journey?
As a servant leader, I want to continue influencing my community in a positive way through supply chain education and coaching in other areas including Personal Development, Leadership Skills, and other soft skills necessary to create a meaningful career. In 2019, a Gallup poll found that only 15% of the world’s one billion full-time workers are engaged at work. That means an astronomical 85% of professionals are unhappy in their jobs. I want to help change that by playing an active role to help others find fulfillment at work to:
- Mentor future generations in leadership and supply chain from a young age to help them choose a vocation and not a profession.
- Help these up-and-comers develop a strong mix of soft skills to support their professional growth.
- Teach the importance of taking accountability to step up as a true leader.
I have started taking these steps with WiLAT and CILT and look forward to making a greater impact in my local and global supply chain community. I’m also dedicated to establishing CILT in Francophone, Africa soon—opening a representation in Cote D’Ivoire.
I want to give local Supply chain professionals the opportunity to keep learning through regular continuing education and webinars, build their networks outside of their native countries, and discover more business opportunities.
These grassroots goals and efforts to develop local supply chain communities are going to help amass a new generation of effective leaders with values and the ability to tackle the root causes of Africa’s underdevelopment firsthand. Under development in Africa is a result of many contributing factors, including a poverty mindset, illiteracy, very large, extended families, corruption, and a lack of accountability. The Covid-19 crisis has shown us how important resilience is, and how critical soft skills are to creating a people-first approach in our communities and at work.
I want to continue raising awareness among young people so they’ll enter supply chain as a profession by choice. By encouraging women to work in male-dominated industries, businesses can increase their performance and retention rates with a larger number of women in leadership positions—able to move the needle.
This Women in Supply Chain feature was made possible by our sponsor, Emerge. As a company focused on empowering and growing meaningful supply chain relationships, Emerge is proud to sponsor Women in Supply Chain. Through its freight procurement platform, Emerge offers solutions that enhance the spot and contract procurement process, enabling shippers and carriers to make more strategic decisions. Learn more about Emerge here.
About the Author
Naomi Garnice (She/Her/Hers) is a Senior Manager, Supply Chain Solutions Marketing at Anaplan where she supports brand awareness and expansion—leading marketers to simplify supply chain planning, make it profitable, and ignite agility by integrating other key business planning areas. Naomi has 16 years of marketing experience and is passionate about telling stories that matter. For over a decade, she has been committed to highlighting the voices of female thought leaders in male-dominated industries. Naomi’s LinkedIn Newsletter, The Chain Explained helps break down supply chain concepts and disruptions to give industry outsiders a greater understanding of how they impact their everyday lives.