Introduction Co-Written by Sophi Kravitz.
The tech industry traditionally has an imbalance when it comes to representation both in entry level and leadership positions. While women make up almost half of the total work force, they only hold 25% of the roles in the tech industry. Despite this, the industry as a whole has been moving towards a brighter future in recent years.
According to an annual Gartner Inc. survey in 2020, 17 percent of chief supply-chain officers are now women, which is an 11% increase from 2019 and the highest metric seen since the survey began in 2016. As a startup within the greater electronics industry, we wanted to hear from the women working across our global teams, to capture the wide range of experiences, perspectives, and stories about the progress being made, and their hopes for the future.
Supplyframe was founded in August 2003 by Steve Flagg and Kai Mildenberger (Kai left in 2006). Sarah Rich, Vice President, Operations & Customer Success, was the first employee the company hired. Cheryl Slinkard was the company’s first VP of Engineering.
“Supplyframe celebrates women in our industry, and we look forward to a future in which all people are treated equally and leadership has equal representation by all genders.”
– Steve Flagg, Supplyframe Founder and CEO
We asked 13 women working at Supplyframe to share their thoughts on important topics such as closing the gender pay gap, representation in industry leadership, and how things have changed in just the past year with the new normal in the tech industry of working from home. This is what they had to say:
Sarah Rich, Vice President, Operations & Customer Success at Supplyframe
My entire career has centered around helping make my customers successful and driving business process improvements. My responsibilities always start with building long-lasting partnerships while effectively challenging the status quo to motivate change. Much of what I do day to day is powered by my experience as a woman in a male-dominated field.
Breaking molds and effecting progress has been an inherent goal for myself and all women in this evolving field. For companies to survive the thrust of true digital transformation, it’s imperative to have a well-rounded vision that is inclusive of all aspects of the future, both in people and technology resources. I’m thrilled to see more females in leadership roles as I firmly believe that diversity in perspective will be key to creating opportunity while maintaining resiliency.
Cynthia Huang, Data Scientist at Supplyframe
In 2020, whether men or women, people were forced to find a new way to balance their work and life at home. I’ve seen many of my friends who have become new mothers this year doing a great job taking good care of both their babies and their work. This new way of working has alleviated the worries of female workers, thereby reducing the differences between male and female workers. I believe 2020 is a turning point that the future will provide much more opportunities for women in tech.
Amanda Gonzalez, Office Manager at Supplyframe
While the tech industry’s gender gap is prevalent across organizations, it’s most notable in high-level positions. As we become more aware and focused on embracing diversity in the industry, I believe it’s extremely important to recognize the value of a diverse team and the perspectives they bring to the table.
To achieve these goals, we need to approach our mentoring, our education, and our hiring efforts with a mindful focus on fostering more diversity throughout our industry.
Erin Kosewic, Full Stack Developer at Supplyframe
Over the years I generally worked on small dev teams and was often the only woman engineer, but I’ve been super fortunate to work with a number of women managers. Those women either mentored or advocated for me early in my career, and I recognize the important role they played in building my confidence, affording me opportunities, and developing my skill set while working in a male dominated sector.
Of course, there have been many wonderful male colleagues and managers who have supported me as well, so my advice is for everyone regardless of gender:
- Advocate for the women engineers in your life.
- Encourage any girl or woman with even the slightest bit of interest in tech to at least get their feet wet; that may be what unlocks their enthusiasm.
- Create opportunities for women engineers to hone and utilize their skills, so that their impact cannot be ignored.
Shane Wang, Digital Marketing Manager at Supplyframe
I have a diverse industry background – education, financial and manufacturing. Manufacturing is my first job in this industry by chance, and after several years, I’m back with Supplyframe.
In China, local elites are more likely in the internet industry, and studying abroad elites would like to be in the financial industry when they’re back. But, manufacturing and semiconductors are foundational and high tech, so if you want to work for something meaningful and a better quality of life, this can be the way you are looking for.
Kimberly Kussman, Senior Digital Account Manager at Supplyframe
There is no question that we are in a male-dominated industry where every strategic conversation across all of the big players in the space are led by a very similar group of people. In my experience, much like this industry is behind in adopting new technology, the culture of the industry is also slow to change and recognizing women’s voices. Organizations like Women in Electronics have been paramount in shining lights on women and the more conversations that are had about diversity and making sure there is representation, not only at the table, but also in what is being said, the more we will start to see greater change.
Innovation needs to be groomed, but much like a farm, you can’t keep planting the same crops over and over again, you need to introduce new nutrients to get the most out of the harvest each year. New walks of life, new voices, and new ideas are going to be what bring this industry forward and women need to be seen as a crucial part of that.
Willa Zheng, Platform Engineer at Supplyframe
Tech is a great place to be for women. The hours are more flexible than in other professions and you can work from home – making it ideally suited for women with kids. Also, because you’re working in an introverted environment, you’re more likely to be judged on the quality of your work rather than how loudly your voice carries across in the conference room. It’s also better remunerated than other careers that attract women.
I don’t think 2020 has changed the status quo for women in tech at all. Maybe leveled the playing field a bit since men are also working from home and sharing in the housekeeping/childminding responsibilities.
How do we close the gender gap? More career mentoring for women. Encourage women to apply for that promotion, ask for that pay rise. It’s rare to come across a mediocre woman in a successful career. They’ve had to be outstanding in some way to rise to their current position. On the other hand, I see a ton of mediocre men in management positions. The gender gap will be closed when we see mediocre women get promoted as frequently and easily as mediocre men. Of course, in an ideal world, we shouldn’t have mediocre people in senior roles at all!
Paid parental leave. Maternity and paternity. America is woefully behind the rest of the OECD countries in this respect. In order to close the gender gap, we need to encourage women to stay in the workforce after they have kids, and not have companies (or their male colleagues) resent them for taking maternity leave. We don’t have this problem at SF but I know other women have experienced this issue at work.
In your 20s, you face a handicap for not belonging to the ‘old boys club’. In your 30s, you are handicapped by having to juggle full time work and raising young kids. It ain’t easy to carry the title of “she/her” in the workplace!
Christina Phillips, Network Engineer at Supplyframe
Being a woman in the supply chain sometimes feels like we are scrutinized and probed more, especially in STEM related fields. But for men, no one tries to analyze them as thorough as for women, or even question their intelligence. Thankfully I haven’t experienced it here at SF.
Sophi Kravitz, Director of Program Management at Supplyframe
I grew up with an activist feminist mum and was taught to proudly insert myself into male dominated fields from a young age. I’ve seen some really positive changes over the past few years. I’m thrilled that awareness has risen and the future for women in STEM is bright!
It is well documented that products are more successful when there is diversity on the team. I think it’s obvious that without diverse teams, product design leans towards one type of person only. I can’t wait to see more women in leadership and for people across our industry to prioritize a more diverse workforce.
Personally, my work at Supplyframe allows me to build teams and relationships with people that I want most to work with. I feel lucky to live in a world that’s so connected and know that the women coming up behind me can look forward to an inclusive future.
Katherine Wong, Corporate Accounting Manager
Our workplace has become more diverse than ever before. Supplyframe, Inc. is an inclusive organization that understands the importance of demonstrating commitment to develop a culture of inclusion and diversity.
In our society, there were many instances that for many women’s careers, women were often left to choose between full-time employment and their family. It is important that businesses provide ongoing assistance with career planning and constant job support. In my work experience here in Supplyframe, Inc, I believe we have developed, empowered, and retained a diverse workforce that helps women on track to balance work commitments and progress further in our careers.
Reena Dhawan, Product Manager at Supplyframe
Ever since I was a little girl in elementary school, I’ve been drawn to all things STEM. I was in numerous science programs and could talk your ear off about the latest math subject we were learning. I decided to pursue Computer Science as a major and had very little support when I decided. Many people around me continued to remind me of the gender gap bias, but that only fueled me to obtain my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Computer Science. I’ve worked in countless roles where my peers and leadership have been males, and I know what it means to be left unheard. Instead of feeling limited, we need women at all levels to make sure women’s voices are noticed.
How do we change the system of attempting to close the gender gap? How can we empower women and create a sustainable future for our planet? We all read about gender wage gaps, skill shortages, and lack of leadership roles in technology, but how can we make a change as humans and not just females?
Women currently in the technology field must become mentors and role models to young women and show them we can make it anywhere as long as we have a voice. Although this sounds like a simple answer, the reality of this execution is quite the opposite. When we encourage a group dynamic that provides a realm of diverse thoughts and ideas, we need to remember that we will be on the cusp of proactive change.
Once we can encourage this, we will all feel we are working towards a common purpose called equality. I encourage other female and male leaders to challenge women by sharing honesty with a sense of compassion. When we can lift one another, this will help each of us sprout into a stronger version of ourselves and strengthen gender equality.”
Majenta Strongheart, Head of Design and Partnerships, Supplyframe DesignLab
I got into the industry in a rather roundabout way, my background is in industrial design and sculpture. My experience in working at various wood and metal shops and proficiency in using cnc equipment and digital fabrication tools brought me to Supplyframe’s DesignLab, where I was introduced to the world of electronics product development and manufacturing.
In my day-to-day work, I don’t think about being a woman in a male-dominated field all too much, and I credit that to being raised by two incredibly hardworking and accomplished women who never put an emphasis on reinforcing traditional gender roles or limits on my interests just because they were raising a daughter. I believe supporting young women’s curiosity in the world around them from an early age is key to having more women in tech.
The way I approach being a woman in supply chain is no different than how I’ve approached being a woman in any other industry; I focus on working hard and building a team and reputation I am proud of, no matter what space I am in.
Dulce Altabella, Finance Manager at Supplyframe
I see challenges as opportunities; lack of role models as a call of duty to be one; and stereotypes as barriers ready to be broken! I know that the future will be bright for women in supply chain, and science and engineering careers in general: Supplyframe is already leading the way, with women in leadership roles whose opinion not only counts, but their talent and willingness to contribute is fully recognized.
As Ed Catmull once said, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it” and Supplyframe is doing precisely that!
While there is much work to be done to achieve gender parity in science and engineering and, in particular, supply chain, I am incredibly upbeat about the future role of women in these fields! We have come a long way from where female talent is lost due to gender stereotyping, bias, or lack of support. Talent does not have a gender: only in recent times we have learned that the key is to provide an environment that can unlock the talent!
It’s vital to get women interested in engineering and supply chain management at a young age. Great strides have been made, but we need to continue to work to have diversity not only in entry level positions but also at the executive level. Only when we have role models at all levels, an equal field, we can truly accomplish optimal results for a company.