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Advancing Women's Leadership: Good for Business

Posted by Michelle Halkerston on 3/10/21 9:25 AM

March is National Women’s History Month. Its origins trace back to March 8, 1857, when women factory workers in NYC staged a protest over poor working conditions. The first Women's Day celebration in the United States was in 1909, also in New York City. Fast forward to 2021. International Women’s Day, observed on March 8, is an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and impact on many levels. It is also a call to action to challenge and call out gender bias. The 2021 theme is aptly called Choose to Challenge. Women’s History Month is an opportunity to reflect upon advances women have made and the work that remains to be done.

We live in a time teeming with challenges, where progress can be frustratingly slow and success elusive. However, I continue to be encouraged and inspired by the acts and work of others. I see it in our company as well as our customers and partners. I also see it at an industry level. Supply chain and logistics have become household terms during COVID, and the female leadership behind many of these achievements is impressive. 

I am proud of our entire Hassett team. Our female executives, managers and front-line team members demonstrated their resilience to succeed in a difficult year. They dealt with unique operational issues and big swings in customer volumes. They worked to secure PPE supplies for our drivers and offices. Some of them shifted to a remote work environment and some had to learn to manage and communicate with teams in new ways. In addition to their normal workload and new assignments resulting from the pandemic, many have been part of the cross-functional team for our new logistics system under the leadership of Traci Richard, VP Technology. This company-wide initiative required increased collaboration, problem-solving and change management. I’ve witnessed several of female team members step up and step out of their comfort zones to take on new challenges and roles. It’s inspiring to watch these team members challenge themselves and realize that their potential is unlimited.   

I sit on the Advisory Board for AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management, and Education), focused on advancing and transforming supply chain leadership. The organization brings together senior women leaders for learning and collaboration, and also focuses on research initiatives and scholarship programs for women in supply chain management programs. The membership represents women in diverse supply chain leadership roles across a broad range of organizations. I am so impressed by the work done by other supply chain leaders in this group whether related to the manufacturing and/or distribution of COVID vaccines, creating new supply chain processes, educating and mentoring students entering the field, or business advisory and board work.

Though I noted that progress can sometimes seem slow, 2021 is shaping up to be a good year for the advancement of women in leadership roles. On the national level we’ve sworn in our first female Vice President and seen two female generals promoted to head four-star combatant commands.

So how do we continue the work to support women’s advancement? There is much written on this topic, so I’ll touch on a few small but important actions. We must provide opportunities within our companies for women (and all employees) to take on new assignments and develop new skills. Create an environment where team members can build self-confidence and thrive. It’s also important to build awareness of what women can and have accomplished. Sharing stories of other female leaders – in a variety of fields and roles – is a powerful way in which to show what is possible.

I have committed to sharing my story, and hope that others do too. As leaders, we can support others as they create their own narratives.


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