Successful Women in Procurement and Supply Chain Share Career Advice

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Today is International Women’s Day, and the United Nations has selected “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-5o by 2030” as this year’s theme. The idea, as you can probably tell, is to push towards a 50/50 balance in men and women’s economic empowerment.

Procurement and supply chain remain a male-dominated profession. So in honor of International Women’s Day, I asked women holding mid-level to senior roles in this field for a few pieces of career advice for their fellow female procurement professionals. Here's what they had to say.

Speak Up

“Make yourself heard! Don’t be afraid to speak up!” — Wendy L. Tate, associate professor of supply chain management at University of Tennessee

“Procurement professionals have heightened awareness about the power of transparency for ensuring a level playing field in the economics of contracting and purchasing. Why do we accept a lack of transparency in talent management practices? On this International Women's Day let's pledge to #BeBoldForChange and start speaking up about transparent and objective talent management practices in our companies. Companies win when 100% of the workforce competes on a level playing field.” — Elba Pareja-Gallagher, director of finance at UPS and founder of ShowMe50

“You do not need to hide your femininity. Use your female skills of empathy and emotion to become a leader. Don’t shake hands like a weak woman!” — Dawn Tiura, CEO of SIG

Network and Find Mentors

“Form relationships, seek mentors and offer yourself as a mentor to others. Build a broad spectrum of mentors by targeting both women and men, all levels of seniority, different job functions, internal and external. Mentors open the door to a tremendous amount of knowledge and multiply the size of your network.” — Christina Gill, manager of Eastern Hemisphere Global Supply Markets Group at Halliburton

“It’s all about the people. You can have the best ideas in the world, but if people don’t buy into them, nothing will materialize.” — Dawn Tiura

“Schedule time with others in the organization — you need mentors and sponsors that will help you be successful — go out and find them! Build a strong and highly connected network, particularly with other women in the field of supply chain. They will be very strong allies.” — Wendy Tate

“Share your learnings generously with all the women around you.” — Elba Pareja-Gallagher

Be a Voracious Learner

“Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Don’t beat yourself up on your mistakes, but rather use them as learning opportunities. Call everything a draft or a pilot. These two simple words open the door for helping you try new and innovative things. Something doesn’t work? Don’t sweat it — it was a pilot you were testing!” — Kate Vitasek, author and faculty member at University of Tennessee

“Like it or not, it's still a man's world. We need to get better at surviving and thriving. I recommend reading Shaunti Feldhahn's book 'The Male Factor.' It is a well-researched book that examines the differences between men and women and how they play out in the workplace. Very insightful!” — Barbara Ardell, senior vice president at Paladin Associates

Dawn Tiura’s current reading list

“Never stop learning. Read a good business book at least once a month.” — Dawn Tiura

Last but Not Least, Work Hard

“As someone who has held various supply chain or STEM positions since 1979, I believe there has never been a better time for women in supply chain to excel and be recognized for their achievements. My recommendation is to accept the challenging assignments that others may not want; work diligently toward achieving substantive business results; and effectively communicate these results to demonstrate your contributions to the organization.” — Sue Purdum, senior instructor of supply chain management at Pennsylvania State University

“I’ve spent a lot of my career doing basic operational blocking and tackling. Don’t try to skip that part because it seems unexciting — it’s what clears your way to be able to think about grand supply chain innovations.” — Shoshanah Cohen, author and advisor on Target’s Supply Chain Council

“As a procurement professional, there are plenty of opportunities to bend rules and/or compromise values in order to meet a more favorable result. However, when you consistently operate with integrity in your sourcing process as well as your interactions with suppliers and stakeholders, it becomes a part of your personal brand that lives far beyond that moment. It builds trust in you as a professional and enables greater success.” — Kanita H. Brown, managing partner at K.H. Brown Solutions

“Have a positive forward-thinking attitude and approach. Don’t think of your job as your ‘job.’ Rather, come to work each day with the mindset to not only get your work done but also challenge the status quo and seek a better way to do your job.” — Kate Vitasek

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