The number of women in supply chain is still rising, increasing 3 to 5% annually, now making up 41% of the industry. The recently overwhelmingly male-dominated industry is shifting and evolving. This decade has brought a greater understanding and awareness of how supply chains impact communities globally. According to Gartner, that trend is only increasing this year. More female professionals are rejoining the post-pandemic workforce and making gains across almost every leadership level–including C-level positions (CSCO, SVP, EVP, CPO). Today, women in supply chain make up 26% of these roles, an unprecedented jump from 19% just last year.
The number of women in supply chain has been increasing with business gender equality goals and initiatives since the start of the decade. Supply chain programs and strategic roles are also expanding in response to recent challenges and disruptions. Gartner’s study finds that more female C-suite leaders give other women momentum to achieve management and executive positions.
At Let’s Talk Supply Chain, we’re passionate about empowering more women in supply chain to break glass ceilings across global logistics, transportation, and manufacturing industries. The numbers don’t lie, and they show that women in supply chain spike faster, with larger leaps forward and advancements. They drive global business performance to unleash faster, smarter outcomes through greater collaboration. These women in supply chain inspire us, and we hope they’ll motivate other female professionals looking to break the bold to keep going. That’s why we highlight their breakthrough achievements and the experiences behind them every month.
Let’s Talk Supply Chain’s Women In Supply Chain program, and these blogs also show business leaders that investing in their female workforce with room for career growth is a powerful competitive advantage. Elevating women in your ranks is proven to propel higher revenue and ROI. Over half of businesses committed to gender diversity and equity have 50% higher profits and 61% higher revenue growth than competitors with less female leadership. Over 70% of these organizations rank the highest in customer satisfaction.
Inflation, geopolitical tensions, and an ongoing talent shortage propel supply chain disruptions. Diversity in thought is no longer just necessary to remain competitive but also to stay in business.
Let’s Talk Supply Chain is committed to closing the supply-chain remaining gender gap with more visibility around women supply chain and logistics leaders shattering glass ceilings and gender barriers with purposeful moves forward. Let’s Talk Supply Chain explores professional roadblocks women leaders continually learn to navigate, how they support each other, and how they transform business.
This month, we’re proud to highlight Karin Bursa, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at NIRAKIO, a B2B technology firm focused on supporting business growth and scalability. Karin is also a strategic advisor, a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer, and a TEKTOK Digital Supply Chain podcast host. She boasts over two and a half decades of supply chain technology experience and a proven strategic positioning, branding, segmentation, analyst relations, and lead generation track record.
Karin led strategic and marketing initiatives for Gartner Magic Quadrant and IDC MarketScape leader Logility. She has been hailed for her leadership with elite distinctions, including the Women in Supply Chain Award for the Supply Chain Pro to Know of the Year for 2020, and the 2009 Technology Marketing Executive of the Year. She also has been recognized as a Supply Chain Pro to Know for 2018, 2019, and 2020. Karin is a servant leader who has a history of sitting on forums and boards, including The Empty Stocking Fund, Kids in Need, the DBC Foundation, ASCM/APICS, and CSMP.
1. Where did your supply chain journey start?
Each job has driven me to solve supply chain challenges throughout my career, starting with the first accounting and inventory management system I helped implement for a local lumber yard at thirteen.
Since then, my journey has led me to empower manufacturing companies and brand owners to enhance production line performance, inventory strategies, and S&OP outcomes. These partnerships have improved customer experience, reduced inventory risk, and boosted profitability. With decades of supply chain and technology experience (and the battle wounds to prove it), I now act as an industry advisor and Fractional Chief Marketing Officer. I share my expertise with practitioners and technology providers. I help them focus on strategic information and meaningful motivation to transform businesses, unleash supply chain success, and mitigate inventory risks with valuable insights.
2. Have supply chain mentors helped your professional momentum?
I never had a formal mentor. I did work for a male advocate who entrusted me with leading several visible projects. Approximately 80% of the workforce was male-dominated then, and I had the opportunity to work for a man who empowered me to stand out and make meaningful accomplishments. We would discuss strategy and tactics before he granted me full ownership over execution and outcomes. This working relationship was incredibly empowering and intimidating at times. He cleared a path for me to connect with other executives. More importantly, he treated me as an equal to my male peers. It marked a significant shift in my personal mindset.
3. What’s your experience working in a male-dominated industry?
My experience as a woman in a historically male-dominated industry has been challenging and rewarding. For decades, I frequently found myself as the only woman in the room, often grappling with various forms of conscious and unconscious bias. I could share these experiences that could evoke laughter or even tears.
To succeed, I discovered the importance of having active dialogues, organizing my thoughts, and articulating a clear vision. Moreover, my listening skills and confidence in asking questions generated fresh opportunities and insights. Preparation makes you memorable, and over time I’ve transformed my ability to stand out into a professional advantage.
It’s heartening now to see more women in supply chain with the ability to make substantial contributions and earn well-deserved recognition. But there is still work to be done. I hope to see equal progress for all professionals, based on their experience and expertise, not their gender or background.
4. When did you find your voice in your supply chain career?
It’s been a personal journey and there are still moments when I grapple with imposter syndrome. It’s been an evolving process. My shift from corporate to the role of Chief Marketing Officer at Logility has been a career and life changer. Earlier in my career, my focus was on building a brand and a distinctive value proposition for my employers.
When I became an entrepreneur and an Industry Advisor, I realized I needed to define my personal brand. It was uncomfortable to shift the conversation to focus on “me” and how I support clients in discovering better outcomes. But over time, it’s become more natural.
5. What advice do you have for women in supply chain and others looking to start a career in the industry?
You deserve the opportunity to make an impact. Tackle hard projects. Be prepared. Take on high-visibility initiatives. View new technologies at every opportunity. Claim your space and lean into the conversation. And remember, if you don’t thrive with a corporate culture that feeds your soul and recognizes your contributions, look elsewhere. Your skills and experience are valuable, and it’s an exciting time to be in supply chain. In supply chain, you can deliver tangible value. There are always new approaches to discover and room for growth and learning. Being a “problem solver” is a key fundamental to success. Build relationships by fostering collaboration with others across the business. Approach challenges from different angles with a focus on desired outcomes. It’s exhausting sometimes but rewarding when you see how you’ve driven value.
Make your own path. Don’t follow in others’ footsteps. Do it your way. Owning our approach and working style always makes it easier and more satisfying in the end. Challenge yourself and see obstacles as opportunities to grow—never stop learning.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and express your interest in having a mentor. I’ve found immense satisfaction in mentoring numerous supply chain professionals with serious potential at pivotal points in their careers and a few who are just starting. My hope is that my mentorship gives them an advantage that women in supply chain didn’t have previously.
6. Who do you admire in the supply chain industry?
I admire several supply chain professionals. It’s challenging to narrow down my list. Some happen to be among this year’s Women in Supply Chain honorees. I find inspiration watching “Shark Tank,” witnessing other entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and go-to-market strategies. It’s fascinating to see which ventures secure funding and from which investors. I’ve developed a genuine admiration for Barbara Corcoran. Her intelligence, approach, tenacity, and unique style serve as a constant source of inspiration for me to think bigger and take more risks
7. What does your Women In Supply Chain award and feature mean to you?
Receiving the 2023 Women in Supply Chain Award is a huge honor. It’s incredible witnessing the latest growth in female representation across supply chain sectors. While the award and feature are both a privilege, I hope it’s a call to action to motivate and empower other professionals of all genders to make their mark. Together, we are reshaping the supply chain industry and its future.
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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
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.