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Women and Collaboration in the Supply Chain

Women and collaboration in the supply chain
November 01, 2021  |  By John Aloysius

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Firms in the supply chain seek to further their own interests but also collaborate with their partner firms in order to reap the benefits of an efficient supply chain. Managers make decisions on behalf of their firms, balancing concerns about their own profitability and the interests of the collection of firms that comprise the supply chain. It is vital for successful firm-level collaboration that these managers cooperate with their counterparts in partner firms. Accomplishing this however, is not easy – the incentives are to do exactly the opposite. Research shows that misrepresenting information and engaging in self-interested behavior can be advantageous. Cooperative behavior will indeed result in a more efficient supply chain, but managers at firms both upstream and downstream in the supply chain can gain an advantage by making decisions that are detrimental to the best interests of their supply chain partners and to the efficiency of the supply chain as a whole.

Firms and industry organizations such as the Gartner group, the retail industry leader’s association (RILA), the Council for supply chain management professionals (CSCMP), and the association for supply chain managers (ASCM) have all initiated initiatives promoting women in the supply chain. While these are usually promoted under the umbrella of diversity, it is often suggested that women have natural attributes that are valuable in advancing supply chain collaboration. Women are often presented as being friendly, unselfish, and concerned for others, while men are presented as independent, assertive, and competent. A byproduct of these male attributes however is opportunistic behavior which is the antithesis of cooperative behavior.

Our research shows that different gender combinations of men and women in buyer-supplier decision pairings can affect cooperative behavior in the supply chain. We compared buyer-supplier pairings that were female-female, female-male, male-female, and male-male. We found that women were more cooperative than men and were less opportunistic. More interesting was that both genders trusted their female supply chain partners more than their male supply chain partners. The result was that they were more cooperative when interacting with women. Consequently, the female-female teams were more efficient than other gender combinations, and male-male teams were less efficient than the other gender combinations.

The implications are that beyond diversity initiatives there may be a business case for more women in supply chain roles that span firm boundaries. It is not just the right thing to do – it is the smart thing to do.

Read the full article in Production and Operations Management.

Post Author:

Matt WallerJohn A. Aloysius is professor and the Oren Harris Chair in Logistics in the Department of Supply Chain Management in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. His research interests are in two main streams in retail supply chain: behavioral operations and technology. His publications have appeared or will appear in leading operations and supply chain journals as well as other journals in business and economics. His research has been sponsored by Walmart Stores Inc., the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), and the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM).

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