4 Supply Chain Shortages Directly Affecting Women — and how Women can Solve Them
It’s no secret that the supply chain crisis in America is getting out of hand. Worker shortages, infrastructure deficiencies, and overseas dependencies are all significantly altering the product that is found in most major retail stores and even small shops nationally. For women, the supply chain shortages are particularly harrowing. From feminine hygiene products to essential medications, the empty shelves and voids they create in women’s lives are a major cause for concern.
To understand the breadth of these supply chain problems for femme-presenting Americans and beyond, let’s take a closer look at the supply chain shortages that directly affect this part of the population below. Also, because this has become a major problem in our modern society, let’s discuss the women-centered solutions that Stimulus and our inclusive approach to supply chain management provide. In doing so, perhaps, we can begin to find solutions founded on supplier diversity that eliminate these woes once and for all.
- Tampons and Pads
The most recent supply chain shortage to take the news by storm has been the very feminine hygiene products that individuals that menstruate rely upon every single month. These shortages have countless women online criticizing price-gouging and poor supply chain management by the major companies they depend on for their tampon and pad products. In fact, Sen. Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire Democrat, sent a letter requesting that manufacturers Procter & Gamble, Edgewell Personal Care and Kimberly-Clark share by the end of the week how they plan to increase their supplies of tampons.
Many are also calling for answers on reports of price-gouging for tampons that have surfaced on Amazon, after it was found that a box of 18 tampons was priced as high as $114 at the start of the year. Meanwhile, when you can find these feminine hygiene products, you are expected to pay 10% more based on ‘inflation’ that has been statistically proven to be nothing more than thinly-veiled price-gouging likewise.
According to CNN, the cause for this shortage has to do with shortages of the raw materials used to make them, including cotton and plastic, as well as obvious supply chain issues. While there are other products to handle menstruation on the market such as menstrual cups, for some individuals, tampons and pads are the only products that feel comfortable and prevent silicone or latex allergies as well.
2. Baby Formula
Another supply chain shortage that is causing mass chaos for parents specifically is the baby formula shortage. According to USA Today, this shortage hits low-income women and moms of color the absolute hardest likewise.
Currently, this shortage is affecting countless families not just of infants but older children and adults likewise that rely on these formulated powders to survive. However, the problem isn’t getting any better even after months of work and refinement. In fact, according to Datasembly, the out-of-stock rate for formula is now up to 40% nationwide.
“This issue has been compounded by supply chain issues, product recalls and historic inflation,” Datasembly CEO Ben Reich said. “Unfortunately, given the unprecedented amount of volatility to the category, we anticipate baby formula to continue to be one of the most affected products in the market.”
Both Walgreens and Target have released statements in hopes of repairing their supply chain shortages in the next few months but nothing is set in stone, and with the problem only worsening, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to repair anything in that period of time.
To explain the cause of this shortage, it all ties back to the supply chain as well as ‘sanitized’ files presented to the FDA by an Abbott Labs baby formula factory. Since Abbott Labs controls 43% of the market, their falsified records paired with a whistleblower’s testimony against them has led to a mass recall. It has also opened up an investigation into the FDA and whether or not they correctly conducted inspections of Abbott’s Sturgis, Mich., manufacturing facility. This investigation will hopefully help to reveal gaps in regulation and reporting as wel las baby formula quality but the instant outcome is this mass shortage and unreasonable formula stockpiling by parents with the income to do so.
This yet again just shows how women, especially women of color, are directly affected by improper supply chain management as well as the cornering of markets by massive greed-ridden companies.
3. Medical Supplies
Yet another concerning shortage that has stemmed from poor supply chain management and import/export processes comes in the form of medical supplies. Everything from laboratory testing supplies and specimen collection swabs to heart monitors and detox kits are scarce which creates various problems for women and their healthcare needs.
With a large part of women’s physical and sexual health requiring laboratory testing supplies and specimen collection swabs, these shortages impact women significantly and make it more difficult for them to receive the healthcare they need to be safe and healthy.
On top of this, one of the leading causes of death in women are heart disorders that are analyzed and prevented by heart monitor systems. Without these systems, women cannot track their heart’s patterns and receive preventative care accordingly.
Similarly, since 19.5 million females ages 18 or older have used illicit drugs in the past year and 4% of women overall admit to having an alcohol use disorder, detox kits are also crucial to help these women during their darkest moments in order to survive and recover. Narcan and similar products have saved nearly 27,000 lives making these kits highly important for medical professionals and their patients.
It’s not just medical supplies, however. Anesthesia medications, antibiotics, pain medications, nutrition and electrolyte products, and chemotherapy agents are frequently in shortage, according to research by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Since all of these medical products affect women, it’s clear why these shortages are so overwhelming and terrifying to experience.
According to Forbes, solutions are currently being demanded from scientists, engineers, and medical professionals alike, “In 2020, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine looked at the causes of medical-product shortages and ways to improve medical supply chains, both in normal times and in public health emergencies. Its 364-page report, Building Resilience into the Nation’s Medical Product Supply Chains, called for the FDA to publicly track sourcing, quality, volume and capacity information and to establish a public database; for health systems to include failure-to-supply penalties in contracts; and for the federal government to optimize inventory stockpiling to respond to medical-product shortages, among other things.”
Despite this, these solutions are still not being implemented just yet — and the results are upsettingly clear.
4. Birth Control Pills
Finally, another major shortage for women that is affecting their health and safety daily is birth control. Birth control medications like Qlaira and Pfizer injectable contraception are running short due to ‘supply issues’ which is causing chaos for women and a higher risk of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. Given the fact that the Supreme Court recently overturned abortion rights in America, it makes sense why this shortage is so terrifying for sexually-active women.
Similarly, these contraceptives along with hormone replacement therapies for menopausal women are affecting the sexual and mental health of countless individuals on other deeper levels including heavier menstrual cycles, mood swings, deep bouts of depression, anxiety, and hormonal shifts that hurt their professions, personal lives, and relationships.
This is part of a larger medicine shortage in America that has been the result of ppor supply chain management since 2020. As a result, more pharmaceutical companies located in America are picking up the pieces and more pharmacies are opting for local suppliers and manufacturers that can meet their needs.
Although these shortages affect so many women and individuals that deal with feminine issues, there are still no definitive solutions coming from the companies causing these shortages. With that being said, it’s about time we as women take the power into our own hands and solve these supply chain crises by ourselves for ourselves.
Women Know the Problem and the Solution
As the old saying goes, ‘if you want a job done right, do it yourself.’ For these supply chain shortages that directly affect women, the best solution is, well, women. Just as women make up 51.1% of the American population, a Gartner survey recently found that women comprise 41% of the supply chain workforce likewise. At nearly half of all supply chain workers in America, it’s about time we take our feminine strength and use it to our benefit.
In order to do this, we have to first understand how these shortages came to be. With this information, we can implement tactical sourcing strategies to create a more structured and streamlined supply chain that can withstand disruptors and appease the demand for all of the products above as a result.
There are many factors that led to where we are now but, essentially, the supply chain crisis was caused by backlogs across major supply chain hubs, COVID-19’s disruption to overseas supplies, and a lack of local, diverse suppliers. The biggest disruptor thus far has been our reliance on overseas suppliers and products to fill our inventory across the country. This is why supply chain disruption from overseas primarily affects the large companies that solely work with them. However, the downside to this even for small business owners is that these massive companies make up the majority of various industries from food and toiletries to medicine and tech. Therefore, every consumer in America is suffering in one way or another.
But, this also presents an opportunity to small business owners that they may not have thought possible prior to this shortage crisis. With massive companies struggling to meet the needs of the consumer, a strong local network of vendors and suppliers can work together to fill these voids and promote diverse local business over faceless capitalism.
As such, the key is supplier discovery and using your visibility power to poach these frustrated consumers while the big businesses scramble. For diverse and American-made companies, the supply chain dilemma is a blessing in disguise. It’s what small companies have been waiting for years. The end of the era of billionaire CEO’s with hundreds of hands in the honeypot is upon us and, as leaders focused on people first, our strategies are bound to pay off.
Since 40% of US businesses are women-owned and 64% of new women-owned businesses were started by women of color last year, it’s clear why diverse women leaders need to step up and seize this moment before it’s too late. By using local inclusive suppliers rather than overseas warehouses and massive manufacturers, the supply chain can begin to heal. In turn, locally-sourced products from diverse women-owned companies will finally be in the hands of the average consumer that once relied on big business for everything.
With women-owned businesses generating roughly $1.8 trillion a year currently and the tampon industry alone generating $5.7 billion a year, even targeting just one of these supply chain shortages as a diverse and local company could help increase your profits exponentially while also trickling back into your community in a positive way as well.
All in all, women may be facing a multitude of supply chain shortages, but all it takes to eliminate these shortages is a bit of ingenuity, networking, and inclusivity from women leaders in every industry. As Cher once said, “Women are the real architects of society.” With that in mind, it’s about time we sit down and create the blueprint for a supply chain foundation that’s built with diversity and empathy in mind, don’t you agree?
To learn more about the power of supplier diversity and supply chain management focused on people first, be sure to check out our Stimulus Relationship Intelligence Platform (SRIP) today. Focused on data and analytics to help companies make better purchasing decisions, the SRIP is a perfect option for women-owned startups and small businesses to manage their local suppliers and find diverse businesses to partner with moving forward.