Female Focus: Women in Supply Chain (2)

Welcome back to our Female Focus series, exploring the experiences of women in supply chain.  If you haven’t had a chance to read the first part of our series, you can find it here. Charlotte from the Marketing team took a trip to our offices in Limerick, where she had a round-table discussion with five remarkable women with a collective 63 years working across various roles within ESCS. This interview series aims to shed light on their unique experiences and insights in the supply chain industry, highlighting their contributions and the diverse perspectives they bring to our organization.

There is a certain pressure often placed on women to be a champion of other women, and to progress so that you can leave the door open behind you for other women. Do you think that is important for women in any career?

Catherine: I think it’s also completely fine to be happy with where you’re at, and I think it’s very important for more senior people on the different teams to be welcoming if new female colleagues join the business, and be willing to mentor them, to support them, and not keep information from them for fear of the new hire outshining them.  It’s not a competition, we all have our skill sets. We all have our different capabilities. I think it’s great to see young women joining the company- my daughter even worked here for a couple of summers- and that experience has been wonderful for her. It’s fantastic to see young women coming in and doing well in the business. It’s just brilliant.

You were all telling me about how you had a group buying tickets for the Lotto together, and how long you’ve had that going, so it sounds like you’re still able to have a lot of fun with your colleagues outside of the work conversation, would you say that ESCS has encouraged you to have a good work/life balance?

Catherine: 100% very, very supportive. Sometimes things happen in life that are beyond your control, and the company have always showed understanding. So from that perspective, I’ve felt so supported. But I think it depends as well on who you’re reporting to, what team and such, because I can’t speak for other teams. But from my own personal experience, they’ve been incredibly supportive.

Aga: I think the pandemic has changed perceptions, has had an impact on how the senior management team allowed us to have this better work-life balance. I’d say it’s across all the companies because previously, working from home was a mystery for many companies- they thought if you were at home you were just doing your laundry instead of working!

Geraldine: And you can actually still do that, but your work is still your responsibility, you still have to get it done. So I think it’s the flexibility has changed as well even with regards to start times and finish times. Now there’s no issue with people that have to bring kids to school, drop the kids, then come into the office for a few hours, and leave to pick up the kids. But I don’t think that flexibility was there before the pandemic, even though the workload is the same at home or in the office.

Catherine: I agree, I think what the pandemic proved was that the business could go on, unimpacted, because when you’re not doing your work, it’s obvious straight away.

Geraldine: I think they’re very supportive and flexible as well, to make sure that you have a good work-life balance. They’re very accommodating.

Christina: There’s no clock-watching from anyone else. There’s nobody saying “they’re not on at half eight” or” she’s not back from her lunch yet”. I would work outside my normal hours if I felt it was needed, I’d have absolutely no problem doing it, but I have good, manageable workloads. In that respect, I’m not overburdened with anything. And then my team is there if anything’s going on, and I always find that the support is there within my own little team. As long as the work is getting done, they’re not watching you.

Catherine: I don’t think I could work for a company where they’re managing when you’re online, when you’re not online. If it was like that here, I would just leave. I’m professional, I have my workload, and as you said, I’m capable of doing it. So if it’s done, it’s done. What does it matter if I started at 9 or 9:15?

I know we talked about sort of the journey that brought you here to ESCS, but is there anything specific that you think drove that journey? Was there a moment in time?

Eve:  I worked for a company once, the Managing Director was a woman and she was very cutthroat. She was good at what she did, but she did it wrong. I think what I learned from her what to do and what not to do, that I think was huge for me. Just to see how people reacted to her and how the minute she’d walk into the open plan office – the minute she’d walk in you could literally feel people tense up, and the minute she’d leave, people would visibly relax. I think that the way she approached people and how she won business and treated her team showed a lack of respect, and on her days off we’d get so much more done.  She wouldn’t even let anyone listen to the radio in the office, she wanted no sound at all in the office. Turnover was terrible there, and to see how people reacted to her was a big eye-opener for me.

Geraldine:  Similar to you, I ended up here following a really negative experience with a former employer. I had left a permanent job and I came in here to cover maternity leave. I was so miserable in that permanent job that I left it to take on that temporary role here. I remember saying to my husband that I can’t leave a permanent job with a mortgage to pay, and he said it’s just not worth staying if it makes you miserable.

Aga: The same for men! In 17 years I probably had 10 managers, and my experiences with the female managers depended on the maturity of the manager. I had one who was very mature, but she was less personal than a younger manager, and actually it was more difficult to deal with the younger one because there was no discussion about a decision- her choice was her choice, but the more mature manager was grand.

Catherine: I’d definitely prefer a male manager. I believe that younger males are more supported in the workplace than younger females in this industry.

Christina: The industry is very male-dominated.

Catherine:  I’d say they’re not more supported just because the industry is male-dominated, I think there is still a bit of bias, definitely. But I think that bias goes across all industries.

Eve: And I’d say that experience makes them tougher.

Christina: To get to that level, they probably had to do so much and it’s a battle for a female to progress in any industry to get as high as they can. I think even if you look at boards of businesses, when you get to the senior leadership teams, they’re all male-dominated. I hate to say it, but sometimes it can be our own fault because we don’t put ourselves forward. I look at it from a recruitment side and now with the HR lens, and the statistics tell us that men, even if they don’t match the job description, will throw their hat in the ring and see how they go and they’ll sell themselves a lot better than women do. And I definitely find it like that.  It’s so hard to actually sit down and think about what have I achieved, do I think that they’re actually worthwhile? Would someone else consider them an achievement?

So for you, would you say that it’s that you don’t want to seem arrogant, or is it because you think that those are things that everybody has done?

Christina: I’m still actually an introvert. It’s just a case of not having the confidence sometimes.

Catherine: It’s so interesting that you see yourself like that, you start to think “well, how do other people see me?” because I perceive you as being very confident. You do all the training courses in person and online and you come across as very confident, I would never have thought that about you.

Christina: I shared those feelings to the girls on my team, asking did that go OK? Did I actually sound like I knew what I was talking about?

Geraldine: It’s funny you should mention that, because last week when you did the presentation [gesturing to Catherine], your business review, I said well done to you afterwards and you said you were nervous before and I never would have guessed in a million years.

Catherine: I was extremely nervous because I don’t like talking in front of people. But once I get started, then I start enjoying it and settling down. And then I do enjoy it. But like anything, it’s just practise.  For me, that was the first presentation I did, I can’t remember the last one I did, and I was very proud of myself.  So give yourself more credit! They’re great achievements, looking back to where you started and where you are today. I still have it in my head that the men are put forward more and their career paths are more supported than the women in the industry.

Aga: I would agree with that.

Catherine:  So you have to be really strong, really ambitious, and drive yourself forward more than a man.

Speaking of women in the workplace, thinking about how things are changing, especially with more women entering supply chain, what do you think about the impact of women as in supply chain? If you knew somebody wanting to join the industry, what would be your insights to share? 


To discover the answer to this question and more, stay tuned for the next part of our Female Focus!


Name, position, years at the company

Catherine Kearns, Senior Account Manager, 18 years

Geraldine Toomey, Buyer/Fulfilment Specialist, 8 years

Eve Kelly, Buyer Planner, 2 years

Agnieszka Nowicka, Buyer Planner/Account Coordinator, 17 years

Christina Hayes, HR Generalist, 18 years


To learn more about any of our offerings or to arrange an appointment with a member of our sales team please get in touch.