A webinar designed to help women leaders in supply chain management translate crisis into opportunity became an object lesson in creating exactly that kind of value, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Jumpstart the Transformation” was the name of a virtual conference hosted by AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education) on June 11, 2020. More than 800 participants registered to attend the online event. Thanks to its success, AWESOME is now gearing up to offer a full range of new virtual programming throughout the rest of 2020. 

AWESOME is the preeminent community for senior women in supply chain, with a mission to advance and transform the future of supply chain leadership by supporting women to excel in the field. 

The organization originally intended to kick off a two-day in-person conference on supply chain issues on June 11 in downtown Chicago. However, the shelter-in-place restrictions spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the in-person event. In response, AWESOME’s planners decided to personally embrace the conference phrase of “Crisis as a Catalyst for Transformation” and re-designed the meeting as a half-day virtual seminar.

AWESOME will continue the dialogue on innovation and transformation begun with this first mini seminar.

The purpose of the event was to give participants insights and practical advice from leaders who are serving on the front lines of supply chain management during a time of multiple crises—social, economic, and health.

The ability to face disruption with equanimity and humor—a quality the speakers both embodied and endorsed—was woven into the program. 

“Hello and welcome to AWESOME’s first virtual event,” said Executive Director Heather Sheehan in kicking off the webinar. “I’m coming to you live from my home broadcast studio…also known as my basement,” she joked. 

Sheehan then moderated two-and-a-half hours of lively conversation among supply chain executives and leaders who are adapting, learning, and moving forward despite unprecedented worldwide disruptions sparked by the pandemic.  

The first session—“Supply Chain on the Front Lines/Mobilizing in the Face of Adversity”—was a panel discussion among three women leaders from the industry sectors of healthcare, consumer goods, and global electronics supply. The panelists were Allison Corry, AVP Procurement for Intermountain Healthcare; Michelle Dilley, COO for CJ Logistics America; and Debbie Lentz, President-Global Supply Chain for Electrocomponents. Each panelist had vivid stories to share about managing the impact of COVID-19 on her organization’s supply chain.

Session #2—“Decision-Making During Crisis”—introduced seminar participants to Dr. Vicki Medvec and Francesca DeBiase. Dr. Medvec is the Adeline Barry Davee Professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a globally renowned consultant in negotiation and strategic decision-making. Francesca DeBiase is Executive Vice President, Chief Supply Chain & Sustainability Officer for McDonald’s Corporation. Dr. Medvec and Ms. DeBiase discussed how companies can thrive even during a crisis via their approach to categorizing and managing risk as well as robust communication. Ms. DeBiase shared that McDonald’s has not experienced any disruptions to its supply chain throughout the pandemic, an achievement she credited to good advance planning, strong relationships with suppliers, and thoughtful risk analysis that helped clarify and streamline the decision-making process. 

In Session #3—“Mastering the Moment”—Ms. DeBiase talked with Ann Drake, the founder and chairman of AWESOME, about the nature of crisis and transformation. Given that the U.S. and much of the world is dealing with multiple crises simultaneously, Ms. Drake pointed out that we are also facing a moment of unprecedented change and opportunity. The two executives shared their thoughts on the potential role of women leaders in this time. 

The webinar concluded with Ms. Drake and Ms. DeBiase offering a toast to the future of women’s leadership, to the seminar participants, and to our world.

AWESOME will continue the dialogue on innovation and transformation begun with this first mini seminar to continue its support of women’s leadership development. To learn about more 2020 virtual events that AWESOME is planning, click here.