Ann Drake ‘84 is optimistic about the future for female business leaders, but she knows there’s still a long road ahead.
“The ultimate power in senior positions, including in Silicon Valley, still rests with men,” she explains. Still, she’s witnessed the business landscape broaden over the years because she’s been at the forefront of that movement.
When Drake entered the supply chain field in 1990, she felt like an outsider since all of her colleagues and customers were men. “It was lonely. I have lots of memories of going to conferences and feeling like no one was interested in talking to me no matter what I did,” she recalls.
Long before Drake was named CEO of DSC Logistics Inc., the ceiling began to crack bit by bit, and she began to notice a few other women moving up in her field. Her confidence soared after becoming the first woman to receive the prestigious Distinguished Service Award from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.
“I thought, 'Okay, I can be brave and bold and leaderly in this circle of men because my industry has recognized me,'” says Drake. She then took the initiative to share that confidence with the women around her. “I was feeling that there was some sort of a tipping point going on, but that women in the field didn’t know each other at all. They all experienced isolation just as I had.”
She founded AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management, and Education) in 2013 to help women network and excel in the supply chain industry. Now in its sixth year, the AWESOME network boasts more than 1,000 senior-level supply chain leaders and hosts an annual symposium as well as several formal and informal events throughout the year.
Drake says she learned to dream big and think boldly in part because of her time at Kellogg.
“Kellogg was transformational and took me to a whole new place,” she says. “I was an entrepreneur and I didn’t know about large-scale business at all, but that’s what the Executive MBA program is all about – it’s a sort of level-setting for people with potential coming from a wide variety of places. It gave me the tools and the mindset and network to call upon and be called upon to make things happen.”
Part of Drake’s network today includes Kellogg’s Global Advisory Board and the Global Women’s Summit, which she says is about more than pushing women forward, though it certainly does that, but ultimately showcasing the power that Kellogg alumnae have collectively around the world.
“The engagement of alumnae has accelerated in the last few years and has cross-networked geographically, from helping startups to getting involved in leadership programs to setting examples for younger leaders," says Drake. "That’s partially Dean Sally Blount and partially all the great women professors that we have. They’re increasing the reach and impact of what they do, which I find very exciting.”