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Jun 14, 2024   |   Podcast

Supply Chain Leadership Across Africa: Closing the Health Workforce Gender Gap

Originally posted on Supply Chain Now. 

Supply Chain Now continues the Supply Chain Leadership Across Africa series as host Scott Luton and special guest host Jenny Froome are joined by Pam Steele, founder and CEO at Pamela Steele Associates, and Rebecca Alban, Senior Manager of Health Systems at VillageReach to discuss the gender imbalance in the public health supply chain workforce. 

Listen now as Pam and Rebecca highlight the importance of achieving gender balance in the industry, not just for equity, but also for improving supply chain performance to ensure health products are available when and where they are needed. They discusse the barriers women face in the industry, such as cultural norms, biases and organizational cultures. They also offer practical recommendations to address these barriers as everyone has a role to play.

Listen now for an inspiring conversation about the role women play in the health care workforce, and the transformational impact they can have, especially among the most under-reached communities. 

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VillageReach conducted research exploring gender imbalance in the public health supply chain workforce in Africa. Learn more here.

About the Guests: 

Pamela Steele is a health supply chain expert from Kenya, specializing in improving access to medicines in Africa. Over 30 years, she has worked for several organizations including Oxfam, UNFPA, and UNICEF, and now leads her own supply chain consultancy, Pamela Steele Associates. Pam holds an MBA in Supply Chain Management from Leicester University and is a guest lecturer at several European universities. She is an executive committee member of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition and is a member of CIPS, CILT, and ASCM. Pam is a proponent of gender equality and recently began an initiative called ‘Girls on the Move’ to encourage more young women to work in the supply chain. Connect with Pamela on LinkedIn.

Rebecca Alban leads the health workforce development at VillageReach, an NGO focused on designing responsive primary health systems to improve health products and services’ accessibility to the hardest-to-reach communities. Rebecca has co-authored multiple research publications related to the role of CHWs as vaccinators and is an active participant on the Community Health Impact Coalition (CHIC). She has lived and worked in Africa, South America, the USA, and currently resides in Spain. Connect with Rebecca on LinkedIn.

Jenny Froome is passionate about how supply chain management affects our lives on every level.  Her original and now current profession is event management – the epitome of a well-honed supply chain.  After many years working as COO of SAPICS – the professional body of supply chain management in South Africa she realized the importance of shining the light on the supply chains of Africa.  Managing events such as the SAPICS annual conference, the People that Deliver Global Indaba, and the Africa Supply Chain Excellence Awards have truly allowed Jenny to combine her skills, knowledge, and community.  Jenny’s lived all over the world and has settled in South Africa with her husband and many 4 legged friends while her sons are scattered around the world. Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn.


Intro/Outro (00:03):

Welcome to Supply Chain. Now the voice of global supply chain supply chain now focuses on the best in the business for our worldwide audience, the people, the technologies, the best practices, and today’s critical issues, the challenges and opportunities. Stay tuned to hear from Those Making Global Business happen right here on supply chain now.

Scott Luton (00:32):

Hey, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are, Scott Luton and special guest host Jenny Froom here with you on Supply Chain. Now, welcome to today’s show, Jenny. How you doing?

Jenny Froome (00:42):

I’m doing really well. Just arrived in the glorious Cape town and the sun is shining. That’s

Scott Luton (00:47):

Not the sun. That’s all the industry stars you’ve got gathered there in Cape Town. It’s shining bright. But hey, more to come on that soon. Great to have you here as always. Now, Jenny, we cranked this series years ago, right? Today’s episode, we’re contending with our popular supply chain leadership across Africa series. Now, Jenny, the best and the brightest. Innovative minds, brilliant minds. It’s amazing these conversations we’ve had for years now, huh?

Jenny Froome (01:12):

It never gets old. It really doesn’t. And I was just explaining to someone the other day the huge thing that we’ve done really by shining the spotlight on African supply chains because there is such a wealth of immense talent on this continent that people don’t understand and they don’t know about.

Scott Luton (01:30):

You said it very poetic, a wealth of immense talent that absolutely can be found throughout the dozens of countries across the continent of Africa. And this conversation we’re having today is just going to add to this longstanding tradition. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback around the world from these conversations. Also, one important note, Jenny, we’re pleased to conduct today’s episode in partnership with our friends at Village Reach a powerful nonprofit that is transforming healthcare delivery to reach everyone. In fact, their critical work enables access to quality healthcare. Get this folks for 70 million people learn more and help support the mission@villagereach.org. Okay? As I mentioned, we’ve got an outstanding show here today, Jenny. We’re going to be discussing the gender imbalance across global supply chain, in particular the public health supply chain workforce. We’re not only going to be examining this challenge and its impact on industry, but we’re also going to be discussing a few ways that our audience members can do something about it to help create opportunities for advancement for all. Jenny should be a good show, huh?

Jenny Froome (02:27):

It’s going to be a great show. Really excellent people engaging.

Scott Luton (02:31):

Good, great. Super extraordinary. I think I’ve got the progression down. It’s going to be a wonderful conversation, folks. So stay tuned. Let’s briefly introduce and welcome in our guest here today, Jenny, starting with Pam, steel founder and CEO at Pamela Steel Associates. Pam, how you doing?

Jenny Froome (02:48):

I’m doing great, Scott.

Scott Luton (02:49):

It is so nice to finally connect with you. I can’t wait to learn more from your perspective and expertise. And you’re joined by our new friend, Rebecca Alban, senior manager of Health Systems at Village Reach. Rebecca, how you doing? Doing

Rebecca Alban (03:03):

Very well. Happy to be here.

Scott Luton (03:04):

Welcome in as we make no bones about it, big fans of what you and your organization are doing. Looking forward to learning a lot more from you and Pam. So Jenny, first things first. I think Rebecca and Pam a lot better than I do. So I’m looking forward to kind of even things up. So let’s get to know our guests first a little bit better. So Pam, a little Birdie has told us that you played on the Kenya’s National Women’s Field Hockey team. You probably can write a book about that experience, right? But what is one element of that aspect of your journey that you’ll never forget?

Pamela Steele (03:36):

Thank you, Scott. So in the spirit of breaking the gender barrier, we only have the Kenya Men’s hockey team. And in 1989, we decided to set up the Kenya Women’s Hockey team, and I was one of the first women to join the team, and I played the team on for three months until one day a ball hit my belly when I was three months pregnant. Oh, wow. And that’s when I realized that I needed to think twice whether I love the game so much more than my baby, and I had to quit. So that remained with me, but the baby came out fine, superb, and doing greatly.

Scott Luton (04:13):

Wow. What an incredible story. And I bet Jenny, that would give anybody pause whether you’re playing field hockey or any of these other teams in sports, which we’re going to get into in just a second. Rebecca, Jenny, have you ever played field hockey? Can you relate to Pam’s experience?

Jenny Froome (04:27):

No, I can’t. But my husband Clive, played for England under nineteens apparently. So hockey is a popular sport in these circles, it seems. I was a lacrosse girl myself, didn’t really do hockey.

Scott Luton (04:39):

Okay. There’s some similarities between field hockey and lacrosse, aren’t there, Pam? A little bit,

Pamela Steele (04:44):

Yes. Yes, there

Scott Luton (04:45):

Is. Okay, that’s what I thought.

Jenny Froome (04:46):

You’ve got to be aggressive.

Scott Luton (04:48):

Yeah, that’s right. Aggressive. That’s who wins the games. Speaking of interesting parallel here, because Rebecca, you played rugby throughout college and we’re told you’ve only broken one bone, which has got to be quite the

Pamela Steele (05:01):

Exception. Amazing.

Scott Luton (05:04):

So Rebecca, what is one thing that more folks around the globe should know about the sport of rugby?

Rebecca Alban (05:09):

Yeah, that’s a great question. And I love that we have a cast of women athletes on this podcast. It’s very exciting. I would say. I get asked all the time about the rules for women’s rugby, and I want people to know that yes, women play rugby competitively and they play by the same roles as men,

Scott Luton (05:26):

And that’s how it should be, right, Rebecca?

Rebecca Alban (05:29):

That’s right. Yeah, it’s a great sport. The comradery is wonderful. It’s a really unique sport, and I hope other women know that it’s an option for them to

Scott Luton (05:36):

Play. So Rebecca, what position on the rugby team did you play?

Rebecca Alban (05:40):

Well, listeners can’t see, but I’m small, so I played on the Wing and I played on fullback. So I wasn’t one of the big people in the scrum. I was one of the small, scrappy people that runs the ball

Scott Luton (05:50):

On the wing where folks, they can throw it out there. And you’re going for the score. Is that right, Rebecca?

Rebecca Alban (05:55):

That’s right, yeah. I grew up playing soccer. I was a good kicker as well. I could kick it over people and then run and get it.

Scott Luton (06:00):

Jenny, I have just used up all every iota of knowledge I have about rugby. How about you?

Jenny Froome (06:06):

You did very well

Scott Luton (06:10):

Last time I was in Cape Town, as I’d mentioned, I was fascinated with a lot of the rugby being played, rugby and soccer and cricket on tv.

Jenny Froome (06:17):

So Clive actually went to rugby school in the UK and apparently rugby was invented when William, we Ellis picked up the ball and ran. Dunno if that’s urban legend or whatever it is, but that’s apparently the background of how it all started.

Scott Luton (06:33):

I love those urban legends, whether they’re true or not, it’s always a fascinating twist on things we know and love. Okay, so now that we’ve learned a little bit more about Pam and Rebecca and I can only imagine the leadership lessons they learned from their athletic experiences, but I want to continue to level set, offer some more context to our audience. And Rebecca, we’re going to stay with you for a moment here. So you have worked extensively in the global healthcare field, having lived and worked in Africa, south America, the US and now Spain. And you’ve also co-authored multiple research publications on a variety of industry topics. So if you would tell us briefly about what Village Reach does and what you do at the organization.

Rebecca Alban (07:10):

Great, thank you for the question. I work for Village Reach, as you mentioned, which is a nonprofit that does a lot of work mainly out of Africa. And we focus on building strong and responsive primary health systems that can serve everyone with a particular focus on reach populations. A lot of the systems building work that we’ve done over the last 20 years has focused on strengthening the public health supply chain. So that means ensuring that people get the health products that they need when and when they’re needed. And that could be anything from malaria or HIV medications, immunizations, but also the equipment needed behind that. So making sure there’s gloves and syringes to get the immunizations into people’s arms. And in terms of my role, I am a senior manager on our health systems team and I focus on the health workforce. So that means I focus on people and within the health workforce are the supply chain workforce, the people behind the scenes that are running our supply chains, selecting the products, calculating demand, designing the data systems, and we focus on how these people are being supported to do their job. Are they getting the right training? How are they being motivated and upskilled? And within that is gender. And so that’s a connection to our conversation today,

Scott Luton (08:23):

Rebecca. I love that on so many different levels from the Noble mission to your focus on people, we have so many opportunities even in this technological era because as our dear friend Kevin L. Jackson says it’s a human factor that powers for digital transformation. So we’ve got a lot to get into. So stay tuned here. Pam. Switching gears, you’re a well-known health supply chain expert. Jenny Froom said that the Rolling Stones open for you, Pam, I’m not sure if that’s true or not. You’re originally from Kenya. I think you’re near the Lake City region in Kenya right now. Yes. For over 30 you’ve worked with organizations from Oxfam to UNICEF to your own supply chain consultancy. So if you would tell us briefly about Pamela Steel Associates and what you do there.

Pamela Steele (09:04):

Thanks so much, Scott. And just point out again that it seems like there’s so much similarity between PSA myself and also Rebecca, that in Hein introduction she said she played fullback and also the Wing. That’s exactly the position I played. And then listening to her talk about her work. Also, no wonder we perhaps are partners because PSA is a management consulting company that focuses in transforming health supply chains in the continent of Africa. But also we do research to inform some of the decisions that we make and also focus on workforce capacity development. Just like Rebecca and the village reach. My role in PSA is to lead the team in the transformational projects that we undertake on behalf of our clients. And one of the focus, again, is transforming the human resource, the workforce aspect of it in order for them to deliver competently the services that are required within the supply chain. And over the years in my course of work, I have seen the lack of gender representation in heroes within the supply chain and again, making the subject of our discussion today. So thank you so much,

Scott Luton (10:13):

Pam. Good stuff. And Jenny, I’ll tell you what, as Pam pointed out, there are tons of common threads between Pam’s and Rebecca’s journey from the athletic piece to their work and transformation research. Of course, their keen focus on the human element across supply chain. Your thoughts, Jenny,

Jenny Froome (10:31):

It’s always amazing. And having the time to have these sorts of conversations gives us the opportunity to find out these common threads. I think, and that’s what you do so well, Scott, is that you always draw these out of us. You help us to see the person behind the job, which is so important because so often we’re so intense on talking about our jobs and our role and our professional passions that we forget about the people that we are. So thank you for making us talk about ourselves.

Scott Luton (10:59):

Jenny, that’s high praise, but I learned from the best just to kind of continue your thought there. I think as humans, maybe you all can relate. A lot of times we go first to talking about our differences and if we kind of change our mindset, they go first and explore where we are so similar, I think we’d get a lot more stuff done, but hey, I’ll save that for another conversation. Okay, so Pam, you gave us a great segue, you and Jenny both and Rebecca, I want to start with you here as we get into the big theme we’re talking about here today, which is creating opportunity for all in this gender imbalance we have in industry, certainly in supply chain and in particular in the public health supply chain workforce. So Rebecca, I want to open up our conversation here with your thoughts on why it’s important to achieve more gender balance in the industry.

Rebecca Alban (11:41):

I would say gender equity is a goal that we always attain when we’re looking across different health workforces. But what makes it unique for supply chain is I actually see attaining gender equity as an opportunity improve supply chains and how they work in their efficiencies. And I can tell you why. If you think about this public health supply chain as it’s a public service, right? Whose job is to get products to their communities. And whenever you develop a product or service, the number one rule always is to understand your users, understand their preferences, their challenges, what they want and need in their lives. And women are primary users of the public health supply chain. They’re some of your top beneficiaries of the supply chain because they consume a lot of products for themselves. But on top of that, women are usually the caregivers of children. So they’re also responsible and consumers of obtaining these products for children. So that’s anything from immunization to all the types of services that children need to grow up and be healthy. So that’s why we really need women at the table to design and manage these supply chains to make sure that they’re designed and run in a way that’s actually responsive to women’s needs and who knows that better than women.

Scott Luton (12:49):

Well said Rebecca, because they are the users, the caregivers, the decision makers oftentimes as your point. Now, Pam, if you would comment really quick and then I’ve got another question for you about how this imbalance manifests itself. What Rebecca say that resonates with you there, Pam.

Pamela Steele (13:02):

It does Scott. I think Rebecca has simply underscored the why. We are talking about the need for gender mainstreaming. It’s not just for the sake of it. I mean people go to hospital because they are sick. So if you think of how they are expected to access that care

Rebecca Alban (13:20):


Pamela Steele (13:21):

The lack of it, and I find that often there are no women at the frontline to anticipate the needs of those women. It’s not just in the public healthcare supply chain domain, it’s also in the humanitarian sector where perhaps they have lost everything and the only thing they’re left with is their dignity.

Scott Luton (13:37):

Pam. Well said. And actually I’m going to cheat. I’m going to get Jenny really quick for our follow up with Pam here on another question. Jenny, Rebecca and Pam both spoke to the why. Anything you would add there, Jenny?

Jenny Froome (13:48):

No, and I think it’s one of those reasons why I became so interested in the entire public health supply chain sector is because supply chains run well in this sector, save lives and make people’s lives better. And so what you’ve said absolutely encapsulates it and people don’t often stop and think about particularly in areas of conflict, what women particularly have to go through from gathering the basic rights of reproductive health commodities and all those issues that we never really as a general public talk about.

Scott Luton (14:22):

We got to lean into those conversations. To your point, Jenny, that’s how we’re going to make more progress. So Pam, I’m going to continue the conversation here and if you would, from your perspective, how does this gender imbalance that we’re all speaking to manifest itself out in the industry and how has it impacted you and your work

Pamela Steele (14:38):

Gender imbalance in manifests across various levels of the supply chain sector? I think it’s not just at the leadership level also, and this stems from the limited representation of women in leadership roles to disparities in pay. Women are underpaid than male colleagues and the gender gap is pervasive in the entire industry, I should say. So personally, my work, I have encountered instances where my gender has been affected, for example, just by the way my ideas are perceived or the opportunities that I’m presented with, especially early in my career, but with the time I’ve had to sort of demonstrate that I am capable and that has helped a lot, but there’s still work to be done, especially for folks coming up.

Scott Luton (15:23):

No doubt. And to one of your last points there, we’ve seen a needle move a little bit. I was looking at research I think from Gartner to the day, but most of the gains seemingly have been made at the frontline manager up to the VP level. And we’ve taken a step back that roles like the chief supply chain officer, the really high level roles. So we got a lot more work to do. But the good news I did want to point out is the industry seemingly is starting to not only understand this perspective they’re all speaking about, but do something with it then of course the action. We can’t do much with lip service leadership, right? We got to take action. So Rebecca, I’ll come to you. Anything you want to comment on what we just heard there from Pam in terms of how it impacted her journey as well as others out in the industry?

Rebecca Alban (16:05):

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I can echo what you’re saying. Having worked in the industry over around 15 years, I’m dating myself a little bit, but it’s something that I felt personally and it’s what drove my interest in doing some of the reaches that we’ve done here at Village Reach, which I’ll talk about, but something that I felt personally, but there hasn’t been a lot of real numbers or evidence behind it. And so that’s what motivated our research.

Scott Luton (16:26):

Love that, Rebecca, and we look forward to diving into that in just a moment. Jenny, anything else you want to add before we talk about this really cool initiative called Wise with Pam?

Jenny Froome (16:34):

And I also just want to add to what Rebecca was saying is that it’s getting that data from Africa that’s so important. The number of people who are doing research and they can’t find North America, Europe’s great, we’ve got lots of statistics, but Africa is a region. And of course then you’ve got to break it down into all the different cultures and all the different religions and everything that resides on this continent of ours. So the research that needs to be done is huge, but there are organizations like Village Reach that are starting to do that. And that’s what’s really important is that we know from Africans what the situation is.

Scott Luton (17:11):

Jenny, excellent point. If I want to piggyback on it just for a second today, folks that they’re listening and viewing us today, we’re focused more on the gender aspect of the wild world of diversity. But I think all of us, all four of us really, while that may be our focus here today, we all believe that there should be opportunities for all in any sort of way you define diversity. And that’s kind of what Jenny, I loved your point there. It’s really important. Okay, so Pam, tell us about, I’ve done a little bit of reading on this initiative called Wise. Tell us about it and what inspired you to start it.

Pamela Steele (17:39):

So Y stands for Women in Supply Chain excellence and it was born out of the ity for gender sensitivity right after the Indian tsunami earthquake of 2004, which killed almost 250,000 people across the Indian Ocean. And women were the majority who bought the brunt of that. So at the time that was 2004, there were very, very few women in humanitarian logistics and in the frontline. And so there was need for advocacy to really increase the number of women in humanitarian logistics in order to ensure that women’s needs are addressed adequately and sensitively. So the advocacy was important and they worked with male allies in the key organizations to try and promote the need for gender based streaming in humanitarian logistics. And we made some strides. I mean, the advocacy achieved so much. Yeah, there’s been some progress, but there’s still more work to be done,

Scott Luton (18:33):

More work to be done. There always will be. We’ll celebrate when we cross finish lines. But as a wonderful leader, the late and incredible Sandra McQuillan reminded me, Scott, just finish lines that we call Tom timeouts and we celebrate and then we start the next race and she sure is missed. But Pam, I love that and congrats. I think if my math is right and I always get challenged on that. That’s 20 years your 20th anniversary. Yes, yes. Oh wow. Absolutely love that, Pam. Okay, so we’re going to dial it a little bit more in on the gender imbalance out in industry. And Rebecca, I’m looking forward to kind of as you mentioned a moment ago, more on the data side. So Rebecca, how do we know there’s a gender imbalance in the public health supply chain workforce? Any data you can share there?

Rebecca Alban (19:14):

Yeah, absolutely. And as Jenny was saying before, that’s the part that’s been missing. I think the missing piece has been getting data from the Africa region. It’s something that a lot of us in the industry have felt for a number of years, but there hasn’t been much published research to really back up that assumption. So Village Reach decided to do our own research to validate this. And what we did is we went to the countries that we know, we went to the DRC, we went to Malawi, and we talked to loads of public health supply chain professionals, the training institutions who train professionals, government stakeholders and partners to really try to paint a broader picture of what are the current gender dynamics in this field? What are we seeing? What are the challenges and barriers that women face on entering and actually progressing through this career path?


And the ultimate goal was of course, numbers, but really we also wanted to come up with solutions, right? We’re very action oriented. So we wanted to say, okay, based on what we learned from this research, what can we actually do in our program work to address these barriers and how can we make recommendations to other peer organizations, to governments and other supply chain actors to help close the gender gap? So that’s the research that I’m talking about. But to go back to your original question, how do we know The research showed overwhelmingly that there is indeed an inequity across this workforce and that the inequity grows even more pronounced as you progress through to leadership levels. So that gender gap is wider at leadership levels. We also conducted a survey amongst the International Association of Public Health logisticians, which is a group of over 8,000 public health logisticians globally. And 85% of the respondents felt that this profession is male dominated. So that spoke very loudly across the perceptions across this field, across the globe, that people really do feel this inequity.

Scott Luton (20:58):

It sounds like you went to the gemba and you went to the folks that are doing it, and that’s where these findings came from and that Jenny, that is what makes the most valuable research, right? Not based on theories, not based on alternative realities. It is facts and from the practitioners themselves. Your thoughts, Jenny?

Jenny Froome (21:14):

No, a hundred percent. And I think that obviously the more tactile or the more interactive the engagement and the research rather than it just being email surveys, et cetera, then the more important it is talking to the community health workers out there, talking to the real people who are managing the clinics in the hard to reach places. This is the research that needs to get done and fed back.

Scott Luton (21:37):

Well said. So Pam, I think all four of us here, we love getting to the root cause. We love getting to the why, and we’re going to do another round of that here. So Pam, in your view, why do we see this imbalance that we’re all speaking about and what do you see as some of the contributing factors?

Pamela Steele (21:52):

Scott? I think this can be attributed to societal norms. I mean, coming from Africa, growing here, some of us grew up knowing our place in the family, in the kitchen, there were duties that would be done by girls and boys that had to be done by boys. In any case, boys had the opportunity to be studying and the girls would be left to do the housework. So that was more to do with the societal norms and of course biases as well. Stereotypes have been attributed to this. And I would say also organizational cultures. You go to organizations where you find girls are given clerical jobs, why boys are given more technical jobs. So it’s something that we see even to today despite the women’s emancipation.

Scott Luton (22:35):

So it’s interesting about organizational cultures. Part of your response there, and Rebecca, I’m coming to you next, but in my journey and my experience, I’m kind of extrapolating through what others undeniably probably experienced as well. But one of my first jobs after high school, I won’t point too many fingers, but as I arrived in my duty station and I met for the first time, one of the section managers, his name was Richard, and he sat me down in this conference room as one-to-one, and he looked at me now and said, you will fear me. And when I think about the organizational culture that you’re talking about, Pam and my experience as a male and how that type of conversation even in 2024 still probably plays out in different ways. No wonder as we think about all the reasons how we got here, Rebecca, let’s go to you. When you think about some of these contributing factors, whether it’s organizational cultures and many others, what are your thoughts there?

Rebecca Alban (23:22):

Yeah, well, I’m happy to share some of the findings from our research and what we learned from a lot of the interviews and focus groups that we conducted. And NASPA said she was spot on. Some of our findings were around the barriers presented by cultural norms around domestic responsibilities, perhaps being at odds with some of this work. We did hear a lot of descriptions of travel being complicated for women. As we know in supply chain to do field work, a lot of times you need to travel to advance, you need to travel, but barriers come up when travel with other males can be viewed as inappropriate. Travel on your own as a woman in many contexts can be dangerous. Traveling overnight for work can be a little contentious if you have other domestic responsibilities that add. So that became the barriers started to stack up more and more.


As we talked about that, we also heard a lot of women talk about the earlier parts of their career or even before their career in their education phase being steered away from math and sciences course because the expectation was that they would not perform as well. And so they weren’t set up in the right way to pursue a supply chain career because they were encouraged to go into more caring professions or professions that were more suitable for women. So that was very discouraging to hear, but I think it’s very relevant and we heard it over and over again in all of our different contexts. Another thing that we heard was kind of an incomplete picture of what a supply chain career can look like. A lot of women didn’t quite understand what it could involve thought of. It was mainly just lifting boxes and driving trucks. But as all of us know, there’s a lot more to a career in public health supply chain. There’s all the work that goes on behind the scenes, all of the planning and the project management and the systems building and the problem solving, they did all of that wasn’t always clear to people so that when they looked at the career path and they thought that maybe it would just be involved with manual labor, it wasn’t as attractive. But I think if they saw the forward picture, it could change their perception.

Scott Luton (25:14):

Absolutely. Change your perception and change your trajectory, change your life. Right, man. We need like a 12 part series just based on Rebecca’s last response there. Jeannie, I’m coming to you next for your commentary, but I want to mention one quick thing, and this is out in the public realm. Many of y’all may be familiar with Laura Cesare. We’ve been fortunate to interview her here at Supply Chain now. And one anecdote part of her journey that kind of goes Rebecca to one of your comments about how organization culture, people can steer folks from what they should be exploring. As I recall, as we were talking about her experience in engineering in college, she happened to not do well on exam or a quiz, and her instructor picked up her score with all these red marks and held it in front of the class and said verbatim, according to Laura, this is why women should not be engineers. That was one of those early moments in her career that she used for fuel. And she’s gone on to do some great big things in industry and that has always stuck with me as a father of two daughters that I want to know they can do whatever they want to do in this world. That’d be some significant motivation. But Jenny, Pam and Rebecca both spoke to some of the contributing factors. And before we get into the actions we can take, which will be my favorite part of this conversation,

Jenny Froome (26:20):

So many thoughts. But one of the observations is I went to one of my very first women in supply chain discussions years ago, about seven years ago, and I was sitting next to a chap and I was sort of intrigued as to why he was in this discussion. And he’s the father of three daughters, and so he wants to start breaking down those stereotypes I was affected by, I can remember being told this is why girls are no good at maths. I mean, I don’t think it was because I was a girl, I think I just wasn’t good at maths. But it’s that it’s breaking down those stereotypes that we all have to work so hard to do.

Scott Luton (26:56):

Yeah, so well said. And we could use advocates from across industry to help us do that for sure. And that’s a great segue. Thank you Jenny and Rebecca and Pam, because I want to get into actions we can take. So as I think all of us have pointed out some of these factors, these contributing factors are certainly societal. Some of them of course are out of our control and a lot of ’em are not unique to global supply chain. So let’s talk about some of the actions that our panel here recommends that we can do, which can help lead to more women coming into these career fields, right? Public health supply chain, global supply chain, or really any industry. And also equally as important progressing because it’s not good enough just to help folks break in, we got to provide advancement opportunities. So let’s start with you, Rebecca. In your view, what can and should be done?

Rebecca Alban (27:42):

Thanks Scott. And you’re right, we’re not going to be changing cultural norms in the work that we do, but we do recognize that there are existing channels that we can work through to improve how women are first engaged in the public health supply chain workforce and then how they grow in it. And as we were hinting at earlier, some of the channeling starts quite early, and so we have to engage youths at the time they’re being educated, make sure that they have a full picture of what a career in supply chain can look like for them and let them decide if it’s a good fit for them. Creating linkages between educational programs and employers is one of those kind of low hanging fruit opportunities that we see that can help to get women on that career path and get them the support that they need to stay on it.


We would love to see more internship programs to this effect. I think Pam can speak a little bit to that, the reasons why later. And then in terms of getting other job opportunities and growing, we saw opportunities to look at different policies and practices that employers have. Even recruitment practices for how you bring people on board can be reviewed to make sure that they’re actually gender equitable or are those policies in line. We interviewed a number of organizations in most did not have even some basic policies around sexual harassment or whistle blowing. So to make sure those are in place to provide a safe, equitable working environment for women is some of those really low hanging fruit things that we can look at.

Scott Luton (29:05):

Love that

Rebecca Alban (29:06):

It sounds simple, but I think it’s really important. It’s around elevating female supply chain, and it kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier about needing women to be at that table to run the supply chains. We need to recognize that women may need a little push up the career ladder to be able to do that. So that means purposefully selecting women for capacity, building opportunities for presenting their ideas at conferences, for being on those decision making committees. It may take an extra push, but that’s what it would take to get women at that table and help to shape the supply chain.

Scott Luton (29:38):

Rebecca, I love how actionable almost all of recommendations are. Going back to the internships, folks listening or watching out there, you might hear the word internship and kind of think it’s cliche, it’s been around forever. If constructed in a forward looking way, they can be so powerful. To your point, Rebecca, Pam, when you think about the actions that we got that we should be taking to close the gap and create more opportunities for folks to enter and progress, what comes to your mind? Pam?

Pamela Steele (30:04):

Scott? I think the example you gave about the teacher saying about why women should not do engineering just led my thought to education and awareness that we need to promote gender sensitivity. So that will be so important that people are made aware of this, but also the policies and organization will change. I think enforcing policies that promote gender equality around pay around say flexible working parental leave. There are women who fear losing their jobs when they go for maternity leave and the recruitment that Rebecca said should be fair and unbiased and that should be viewed also the promotional purchase that they take and the retention of staff so that women don’t fear that if they have to leave work for maternity leave again that they not get their work. But the point she mentioned about internship is so important. I’ll talk about it because we’ve recently launched a program known as Girls on the Move, and the Girls on the Move was born out of the need to improve gender balance in health, Arian supply chains, but also address youth and employment.


Rebecca touched about engaging youth at the beginning, appetite of being educated. So we have young women who finish diploma in supply chain, degree in supply chain, but lack opportunities to get jobs. Now you may hear about internship and things that it’s so straightforward here in my country, in Kenya, perhaps in many African countries, some of those internships are paid for, you have to pay in order to get the internship. Now to even get that internship is not that easy. So in the Girls on the Move, we were able to advertise for the girls who then had the qualification in supply chain and had not got jobs at all in three years or two. And then we also reached out to almost 10 employers across the state or county for that matter here in Kenya as we call them at the subnational level. And were able to place about 36 girls for almost eight months of internship.


We were lucky to have Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition to put some seed funding in it that helped us with their transport to and from work. And in eight months time they were able to get mentoring, they were able to get development technical and also in soft skills such that by the time the project ended, we had 13 already getting contracts for employment. Girls that never dreamt they would get jobs who told us that by the time we found them, their brain are going to sleep and are now producing so much, contributing effectively to improving supply chain. I checked one year down the line and we have now 21 in employment, actually three of them are in business, but 19 are on jobs earning money. And that has transformed not just their lives, but even their family’s lives, somehow already taking responsibility to support their siblings. And one thing that touches me so much is when they tell me that they’re now able to buy even their sanitary parts, things that they relied on their parents for those who came from orphan background, that they relied only on their dad to give them money for the sanitary part that the fee so empowered that they can do that now. So Gas on the move has been so impactful and we are now looking to skin the project up in partnership with Village Reach. So we are reaching out for that support.

Scott Luton (33:31):

Oh wow. Jenny, I’m going to give you the first comment. I’m blown away with those lives that Pam and her team of volunteers and associates have changed. Jenny, your thoughts?

Jenny Froome (33:41):

Role models. It’s what we as human beings, we always need role models and in this profession and through platforms like Supply Chain, now we learn more and more about the people who we can look up to, who we can emulate, who we can want to be just like, and Pamela and Rebecca are examples and we’ve got so many incredible women in this profession. You’ve mentioned Laura, we’ve got people like Maryanne Ross and Joni Holman and Carol Patak and all these women who are trailblazers. Cix itself has had four women presidents in its history, which is, and I know it’s nearly 65 years, but we need role models and we need women to speak up more and we need women to champion each other. That’s basically what the youth are looking

Pamela Steele (34:29):


Scott Luton (34:29):

Excellent point. Lots of special people You just mentioned, you didn’t mention Maryanne Ross’s new Hound Trapper. John do Jen, we got to give a shout out to Trapper John. Shout out to Trapper John. Kidding aside, Pam, goodness gracious. 21 Young Ladies with Jobs or 19 with Jobs, 21 in business. I think if I heard those numbers right and that newfound sense of independence and empowerment and a new trajectory in their careers and having their fate in their hands based on the program that Girls On the Move program that y’all have launched. So kudos. We’re looking forward to getting updates. Hopefully some of our listeners and viewers out there might want to jump in the mission and help support Pam and whether it’s Wise or Girls on the move, or of course Rebecca and the Village Reach team, which help so many of these types of things happen as well.


It’s all about outcomes and results. I love these conversations we’re having because so many of ’em are so focused on what’s really getting done, not what we should do, not what it’d be nice to do, but how we’re changing lives. So kudos. I’m so thankful for leaders like Pam and Rebecca and Jenny. Okay, so we’re going to make sure folks want to connect. Rebecca, I want to give you a chance before we get into the one thing, Rebecca comment if you would, on what we heard there from what Pam and Girls On the Move work your thoughts?

Rebecca Alban (35:45):

Yeah, thanks Scott. I have a huge fan of the Girls on the Move Pro Gym. As Pam said, we are working together with her to try to scale it to across Kenya but also into other countries with the help of Village, village reach and our footprint. I think what’s so great about it and relates to our conversation is that it helps to level the playing field. And so much of what our research showed is that women have less access to assets and education. And that training and soft skills that Pam was talking about is really what’s key to that program so that by the time they leave, they have not just the hard skills but the soft skills to be able to pursue the careers that they want and to shape the supply chains. Most of the women got jobs working for the public health supply chain, so we love it and are looking forward to seeing it grow.

Scott Luton (36:29):

No doubt, man, maybe we can all get together and interview some of these new leaders making their impact felt out in the industry. So we’ll have to save that as an action item later. Pam, Rebecca, and Jenny. Okay, covered a lot of ground here, right? And I’ll tell you, I’m ashamed to say I’ve got a seven second attention span and hey, I bet some of our listeners and viewers out there, if they’re keeping it real, they’ll raise their hand and say, I do too, Scott, for those folks out there, they may forget everything else we’ve talked about here today because that’s human nature. But what’s one thing that each of y’all would challenge our audience to remember about women and supply chain from our conversation here today? And Rebecca, I’m going to stick with you here. Your thoughts?

Rebecca Alban (37:06):

Great. Seven seconds. I would say that the gender imbalance is more than just an equity issue. It is an opportunity to make our supply chains perform better and reach people better.

Scott Luton (37:18):

Well said Rebecca. And that’s not a luxury these days. Our global supply chains have to change how we do business so we can optimize ’em and deliver for all. So I love that. Rebecca, Pam, same question. What’s one thing folks got to remember?

Pamela Steele (37:31):

The transformative impact of their inclusion and leadership? I think women bring diverse perspectives. They enhance decision making and they contribute to a more effectively run supply chain.

Scott Luton (37:45):

Absolutely transformative for sure. Big theme for today’s conversation and better yet, transformation. Not in the theoretical sense, but in the real human practical sense. I appreciate all of y’all’s leadership there. Jenny. I’m going to give you the option, right? You’re one of the OGs here in the supply chain now family. So you get options if you want to speak to one thing folks got to take away from this conversation or one of your favorite takeaways from today’s conversation, your thoughts, Jenny.

Jenny Froome (38:11):

One of the things I want to say, which is very easy to say from a position of privilege, is just try not to be defined by your gender. Try to be defined by your talent and by what it is that you are good at. And try not to let anybody put you down because of your gender.

Scott Luton (38:27):

Wow, Jenny, love that. That’s about the 27th T-shirt ism I think I’ve gotten from all three of y’all here today. But what a great message. Don’t be defined by your gender, be defined by your talent, be defined by the mission that you’re serving and the outcomes that you’re producing. So what a great message to leave of people here today. Big thanks to all three of you. I want to make sure folks, how to connect with you though, and your missions and get involved. Maybe they want to talk shop right on a phone call or at one of the events or maybe hopefully they’ll jump in and support the Noble missions that you’re on. And Rebecca, let’s start with you. Rebecca Albin. How can folks connect with you and the Village Reach team?

Rebecca Alban (39:02):

Yeah, they can connect with me on LinkedIn. They could go to the Village Reach website and anyone who is going to be at the Safe Bigs conference in South Africa coming up, we have a great team that’s going to be there as well. So you can contact any of my colleagues and learn more about our supply chain work, our gender work, and any of our broader work as well. We look forward to hearing from you

Scott Luton (39:22):

Folks. Take Rebecca up on that. Me and Jenny both have had a good fortune of meeting plenty of folks from the Village Reach team. You’ll enjoy those conversations. And I would just add before I move the Pam and Jenny to our audience out there, if you’re in position to contribute resources to the critical mission that Village reaches on, we invite you to do just that. As we mentioned on the front end, these efforts, their efforts have enabled access to quality healthcare for 70 million. People talk about making a difference, but there’s a lot more work to be done as all of us have been talking about. So joining the mission, you can learn more@villagereach.org. Alright, so Pam Steele, I’m so glad I finally have had a chance to meet you and our audience has finally had a chance to meet you. I can’t wait to reconnect with you more on both Wise and Girls on the Move. Fascinating programs. So how can folks connect with you? Pam Steele?

Pamela Steele (40:08):

I can reach on my LinkedIn, but they can also reach me on www dot pam steel do org, www do palm steele org.

Scott Luton (40:19):

It’s just that easy. And folks, Steele has an E, so that’s Pam, PAM, Steele ST e.org. Is that right, Pam?

Pamela Steele (40:29):


Scott Luton (40:30):

Wonderful, wonderful. Thank you so much for taking time out here today. I appreciate the big time outcomes that you are leading out in the industry. Jenny Froom, I’ll tell you what, I know you got several full plates right now, but I’m so glad you joined us here today. How can folks connect with you and all the cool things you’re up to?

Jenny Froome (40:46):

LinkedIn’s the easiest place. I am quite active. I’m the one with all the typing mistakes in my LinkedIn post, so you’ll know it’s me, Jenny Froom.

Scott Luton (40:55):

I think a lot of us could vie for that title. Jenny, I know I am the king of typos for sure, but regardless, Jenny, free, really appreciate all that you do and all of our good collaboration here that brings incredible leaders like Pam and Rebecca and what they’re doing more importantly to our audience. I really appreciate that. Okay folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation as much as I have. Again, big thanks to Pam Steele, founder and CEO at Pamela Steele Associates. Pam, so nice to meet you. And also Rebecca Albin, senior manager of Health Systems at Village Reach, Rebecca, so nice to meet you as well.

Rebecca Alban (41:27):

You as well. Very great to speak here.

Scott Luton (41:29):

Bet you bet, Jenny. Always a pleasure. But here, Jenny, as we start to sign off, it’s all about action. What are you doing? Not what are you saying? Not what conversations you’re part of. That’s important, but more importantly, it’s about action. So folks, to that end, I challenge you. Take one thing from Jenny or Pam or Rebecca and put it into action, right? Your teams are ready to do business different and think about the lives you can change as we pointed out here, right? So with that said, on behalf of all of our team here at Supply Chain now, Scott Luton challenge you to do good, to give forward and to be the change that’s needed. And we’ll see you next time, right back here at Supply Chain now. Thanks everybody.

Intro/Outro (42:07):

Thanks for being a part of our supply chain now, community. Check out all of our programming@supplychainnow.com and make sure you subscribe to Supply Chain now, anywhere you listen to podcasts. And follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. See you next time on Supply Chain. Now.

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