Women in Industrial Distribution

Categories: Blog

By Jennifer Murphy, President

It is inevitable. At least once a week, when I am at a various school or sporting event, the person standing next to me will ask, “So, what do you do?” With a slight twinkle in my eye, I say, “I run a buying group for industrial distributors.” This reply is usually returned with a perplexed look and an uttering of ‘oh’ or ‘hmm’ followed by a sudden interest in the game at hand.

Those that want to know more find it unexpected that this woman that they have known for a number of years works in an industry known for machinery, tools and well, men. It is also surprising that people know very little about manufacturing (how the items that they use every day are made) and distribution (how that item on the store shelf made it there in the first place)!

Industrial Distribution published an article earlier this year, “The State of Women in the Supply Chain,” and discussed the need to educate young people on the basic fundamental process of the supply chain. The article also goes on to say that this early education is the key to adding women to the supply chain workforce. The Industrial Supply Association (ISA) has embraced the movement to add both young people and women to the industry through its Emerging Leaders and Women Industrial Supply Executives (W.I.S.E.) groups. Kathleen Durbin, a pioneer for women in our industry, founded W.I.S.E., and I am grateful for the opportunity to network, cultivate business opportunities and look up to women like her for confidence and guidance as our numbers continue to grow.

My dad left this photo from the Wall Street Journal of the 2015 GM-UAW contract negotiations on my desk. The photo is of the ceremonial handshake to the formal start of the labor talks and includes GM Chief Executive Mary Barra and UAW President Dennis Williams, posing with GM North America Labor Chief Cathy Clegg and her UAW counterpart, Cindy Estrada. I’m hoping that perhaps this 3:1 ratio is a glimpse of what’s to come for the future state of women in the supply chain.