WISC-Blog-Katie-Date

Katie Date on Bringing Women In Supply Chain™ Together

Q2 is just around the corner. 2024 has brought a fresh sense of urgency to the global supply chain amidst growing regional wars and tensions, and calls from climate scientists have kept sustainability initiatives a top priority. Rising sea levels and major American metropolitans slowly sinking have climate scientists on high alert and raising the alarm for government and commercial organizations.

The Russian war and attempted invasion of Ukraine and other global conflicts have made the safe passage of cargo across the Red and Black Seas more problematic than ever, while cutting off some major global suppliers.

The supply chain isn’t getting any less complicated. But thankfully, now we have more women in logistics to help solve the latest issues. We saw meaningful progress for Women In Supply Chain™ last year with a powerful leap in executive representation and activity for women across the chain. Frontline representation remained steady at 31% and the overall number of women in the supply chain community made a 5% increase—a trend that continues.

To face the latest wave of market challenges and logistics obstacles, more organizations are investing in diversifying their workforces and letting women take the lead. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we’re honored to feature Women In Supply Chain™ breaking out of traditional gender roles across global logistics, transportation, and manufacturing. These stats show that Women In Supply Chain™ drive bigger, faster moves forward and greater profitability while igniting higher levels of global collaboration.

Women In Supply Chain™ motivate us. They give us hope for finding novel approaches in our fast-evolving world. At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we hope our Women In Supply Chain™ blog series inspires other female professionals looking to ascend far beyond glass ceilings to make a tangible impact.

Let’s Talk Supply Chain’s Women In Supply Chain™ program, and these blog highlights show the undeniable competitive advantage in investing in your female workforce. Empowering women in your ranks is proven to spike higher revenue and ROI. More than half of businesses dedicated to gender equity and diversity have 50% higher profitability and 61% higher revenue growth than competitors. And over 70% rank highest in customer satisfaction.

This month, we’re excited to feature Katie Date, SVP of Industry Relations & Strategic Initiatives at Manifest: The Future of Logistics. Katie has two decades of experience connecting businesses, research, and education, working in different capacities across the supply chain. As the SVP of Industry Relations and Strategic Initiatives at Manifest, she spearheads organizational efforts to foster strategic partnerships, empower innovation, and advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the industry. Katie previously founded and let the Women In Supply Chain™ Initiative at MIT, a groundbreaking project making greater knowledge and resources accessible for a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

1. Where did your supply chain journey start?

There have been a lot of twists and turns. When I first worked in a distribution center more than two decades ago I didn’t know the word supply chain. I look back at that experience often. I have largely worked in male-dominated industries and for the first decade of my career, I never really thought about that.

I was good at being a part of the ” boys club” and thrived in the environment. I learned a lot of lessons along the way and valued that experience. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I started to question why I was still the only woman at the table and felt a responsibility to make sure it didn’t stay that way.

That is why in 2017 I founded the Women In Supply Chain™ Initiative at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics. Now in 2024, just coming off a very successful Manifest Vegas and finally seeing women in top positions in the supply chain, I am encouraged about the momentum. I am excited about the emerging leaders. The women stepping into leadership for the first time are taking the supply chain in exciting new directions and I cannot wait to see where it goes.

2. Have mentors supported your professional growth in supply chain?

I have been fortunate to have many great mentors both formal and informal, men and women. Some of my best mentors have been those who have pushed me outside of my comfort zone—that’s where I have seen the most growth. My mentors have also encouraged me to think differently and exposed me to opportunities I wouldn’t have necessarily had access to otherwise so I could make a meaningful difference.

3. What’s your experience working in a male-dominated industry?

My experience in the industry has been positive overall. Most of my male colleagues have been very supportive of my career development and growth. Unfortunately, my biggest obstacles have been a small set of women who have stood in the way. That is one of the reasons I am so passionate about creating opportunities for women to grow. It is hard enough already and standing in the way of others is unacceptable. One of my favorite quotes is by Madeleine Albright. “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

4. When did you find your voice in your supply chain career?

I’ve never been shy about expressing my opinions. My parents often talk about the time when I was in the sixth grade, and I told the teacher I could teach the class better than she could, (I was probably right). What I struggled with was how to use that voice in an impactful way. Many years later it clicked and even then it took some refinements. In 2017 when I finally put my flag in the ground and created the Women In Supply Chain™ Initiative that was the first step.

It was encouraging to see so many leaders in the Supply Chain come together around a common goal. If I had to draw on one moment where everything really came together it would be in October 2019 when I delivered the keynote address for the International Congress of Industrial Engineers in Bucaramanga Colombia. I gave the first part of the talk in Spanish (not my native language). This was so far outside my comfort zone, but the feedback I received after taught me that the most important thing I can do is connect with people. Since that moment it has been my intention in every talk I give to make that connection—even just one. That small shift has paid off in dividends. I feel like I am truly making a difference.

5. What advice do you have for Women In Supply Chain™ and others looking to start a career in the industry?

Say yes to opportunity. Trying to chart a path in the supply chain can be maddening, but by saying yes to stretch assignments or new opportunities we open ourselves to growth and new corners we never knew existed.

Make sure to bring other women along as you grow. You may have had to fight for your place at the table but if you can make it easier for someone else along the way then you are doing your part.

6. Who do you admire in and outside of the supply chain?

I admire and respect so many professionals in and outside of supply chain. One of the people that has made the biggest impact on me is Kip Hollister. Kip is the founder of The Hollister Group. She is the first person who taught me the importance of bringing your whole self to work. Kip invests in her employees and really prioritizes the wellbeing of each person. Even though I haven’t worked for her in almost 15 years, I still draw on the things she taught me almost daily.

I also really admire Courtney Muller, the President of Manifest. Not only did she see something special in me and give me the opportunity of a lifetime, but she has been identifying opportunity for other women throughout her career. Being a C-level executive in the male-dominated events industry isn’t easy. Courtney has never been afraid to chart a path forward and bring women together around the common goal of growth.

7. What have you learned on your supply chain journey so far and what’s next?

I have learned the importance of being deliberate both with my time and with others. It is very easy to say yes to everything. But the more I have become intentional with my time the more valuable my connections have become. The future is bright and full of energy.

I love what I am doing with Manifest, I feel so lucky to be a part of such an important event for our industry. I am also excited about the work that I am doing with Women In Supply Chain™. Leading groups with other women has always been something I see value in so I can’t wait to see where it all goes.

I’ll continue working towards driving more gender diversity in our industry. For me that means driving more diversity in all ranks of the supply chain, helping women know their worth and receive equal pay for what we do, and building a stronger community.

We are better when we come together. I’d like to see women coming together in a common group instead of smaller, competing groups so we can achieve more for each other.

8. What does your Women In Supply Chain™ feature mean to you?

It is such an honor to be recognized by the Supply Chain community like this. To be in the company of such accomplished female leaders is such a pleasure. The more we can highlight the great things women in the supply chain are doing the more we can elevate the position of women.

 

Calling all Women In Supply Chain™!! There’s a new initiative that’s 100% geared towards serving YOU!

 

Women In Supply Chain™ is an online community with the sole purpose of providing women in our industry with consistent support and opportunities, all year long.

Elevate Your Career with Women In Supply Chain™! 

Join a groundbreaking industry initiative that goes beyond networking. Women In Supply Chain™ is a diverse collective of professionals fostering growth, deep connections, and career development.

What you get:

  •  3-hour Introductory Call
  •  Monthly Live Calls with a Professional Facilitator
  •  Access to a Private Online Community
  • Women In Supply Chain™ T-Shirt
  •  FREE Access to The Supply Chainers ($175 Value)

Investment:

$1,000 deposit + $100/month membership Learn more + join here.

Take your future into your own hands & ask your company to add this to your professional development budget. Reach out to hello@secretsocietyofsupplychain.com for questions.

Spaces are going fast– Don’t miss out on this transformative opportunity! 

Meet Our Sponsors

GoFreight is proud to sponsor the Women In Supply Chain™ blog and podcast series, recognizing women’s vital role in the industry and the need to highlight their contributions and experiences. We are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the supply chain field and are honored to support initiatives that empower and inspire women in their professional journeys.

Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s Women In Supply Chain™ award, sponsored by Let’s Talk Supply Chain podcast and Blended Pledge project, honors female supply chain leaders and executives whose accomplishments, mentorship, and examples set a foundation for women in all levels of a company’s supply chain network.

 

About the Author

Let's Talk Supply Chain Katie Date on Bringing Women In Supply Chain™ Together 1

Naomi Sylvian is a content marketing leader with more than 17 years of experience, and the editor of Let’s Talk Supply Chain™’s Women In Supply Chain™ series. Her works have appeared on Forbes, Mashable, Business Insider, The Muse, and Yahoo, and have been mentioned by The New York Times Online. Naomi mentors at-risk teens to fight recidivism and contribute on a local level, working with the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. Subscribe to her LinkedIn newsletter, The Chain Explained, for all things Supply Chain broken down with as many pop-culture references as possible, or view her marketing portfolio online.          

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