Women in Supply Chain: A WIN at Manhattan
Last year, Manhattan Associates launched a global Women’s Initiative Network, or WIN, to foster a work environment and culture that supports Manhattan’s talented women in achieving their professional goals.
Connie Taylor, a vice president of R&D based in our Atlanta office, is one of the program’s executive sponsors in the U.S. and recently spoke with us about her experiences working in the supply chain and logistics sector, her advice for others interested in breaking into the industry and her goals for the program moving forward.
Q: Tell us about the WIN program and how it started.
A: WIN was started as part of Manhattan’s PRISM program, which focuses on diversity and inclusion. If you look at our industry, historically it’s been a fairly male-dominated field, particularly within areas like warehouse management and software development. We launched WIN 18 months ago to provide a forum for women working at Manhattan to network and learn from one another. Plus, the initiative will help us recruit talented, in-demand women to the company.
We hold various events throughout the year, for example leadership training sessions, informal meetings where we watch and discuss TED talks or more structured panels with invited speakers. Here in Atlanta we also partner with various community organizations and have hosted mentorship days, where high school girls have shadowed some of our female employees. WIN has also been a big part of Manhattan’s yearly conference, Momentum. This year we had an entire track at Momentum dedicated to the topic of women in supply chain.
Q: How did you first get into the business?
A: I’ve always been a problem solver. I majored in math in college and got my master’s in computer science. In my 25 years in the software industry, I’ve been in a lot of different roles, ranging from consulting to product development. Regardless of my role, the majority of my software development experience has been in the supply chain domain.
Q: Did you ever encounter any resistance as a woman working in the field?
A: The industry is very merit-based, so gender discrimination or bias is rarely a direct issue. At its simplest form, either your code works or it doesn’t. I do think it can be more difficult for women to break into the social side of the industry. For example, maybe there is a golf networking event and not as many women are avid golfers … it’s the little details like that which I’ve noticed can be challenging for women. On the whole, however, my experience has been that if you work hard and show that you are competent and passionate about your work, people will want you on their team. And I’ve learned that diverse teams are better teams; they attack problems from different angles and are less likely to run into dead ends.
Q: What stands out to you as a memorable career moment?
A: It’s difficult to pinpoint a single moment! When I look back, I am probably most proud of building great teams that went on to solve really difficult customer or product problems. One example is from very early on in my career. I was asked to build a test organization from scratch as part of an initiative to improve product quality. I was a software developer at that time and unsure if I was up for the challenge of being a manager – especially in an area about which I was not incredibly familiar. I still look back at that resulting test team as a top-notch QA organization. This opportunity was an early lesson showing how important it is to have great mentors and not to be shy about asking for advice. I have been lucky to also have some really great mentors throughout my career, and I think that working closely with people that inspire you and that you can learn from is very important.
Q: What advice do you give to other women considering entering the field?
A: Many people—men included—think that math and science is inherently geeky and anti-social work. I think people often have this vision of someone sitting in an office cube crunching numbers, when the reality is so much more exciting. So many opportunities open up for you if you have a math and science background, particularly given how pervasive technology is today. I would encourage women not to close the door on math and science-related careers because they think they aren’t socially relevant. Once you understand that everything we do today involves technology in some way, you realize that knowing how to solve technology problems gives you access to all kinds of opportunities.
Q: What’s unique about Manhattan’s WIN program?
A: I think it’s the bridge we have across the cultures in our U.S. and all global offices. If you go thousands of miles away, women in these different regions have distinctly similar issues and challenges, and this global program is an outstanding forum for addressing them. We’ve gotten great feedback from the women involved in WIN to date and have plans to keep expanding and evolving the program. Momentum will continue to play a key role—we are already in discussions about how we can grow and strengthen the women in supply chain leadership track for next year’s event.
I truly believe WIN is successful because we have such strong internal support for the program. This comes from the top down and is an ethos shared by our entire executive team, which is really great to see. I think WIN is viewed not only as a means by which to foster a work environment and a culture that support Manhattan's talented women in achieving their professional goals, but also as a competitive advantage. We work with a lot of retailers in fashion and female-centric industries, so it’s a logical step for us to be focused on this demographic and help grow leadership—not just within Manhattan but within the broader industry as well.