The Procurement Workplace in the Weinstein Era: Q&A with Coupa Board Member Leslie Campbell

It’s often difficult to separate the technical sides of any profession or industry from its cultural, human-oriented counterparts. After all, humans are still the driving force behind and beneficiaries of procurement technology — no matter what AI and automation have in store for us — and we must continue to learn how to better work together.

With that, we continue our conversation with Leslie Campbell, member of Coupa’s board of directors and former procurement practitioner, on what diversity, fairness and gender equality in the procurement workplace mean in the current cultural moment.

Spend Matters: As a woman who has achieved success in procurement leadership positions at several large organizations, what is your take on the recent #MeToo movement from the perspective of the procurement profession? Does the prevalence of workplace harassment throughout many different industries that’s recently come to light extend to procurement?

Leslie Campbell: If you look back at my career, I've been in a lot of different roles in a lot of different industries. I've been in a professional services organization, with KPMG for a long time, and also in the financial services industry. Then I was in finance in high technology. I was in procurement in high tech. I went to the sales side in high tech with Dell, and I ran a sales force across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Then I came back to procurement with Dell, and then was a CPO at Reed Elsevier. And so I think it's probably safe to say that there isn't an industry or a discipline where this phenomenon does not exist. I think it exists. We're seeing it blow up in Hollywood, but it would be illogical to think that this kind of behavior is limited to certain industries or certain disciplines.

It's a great conversation to be having. It's really, really important for people to be able to feel like they can come forward and describe what's happened to them. Having the conversation as a nation is the first step toward solving this problem and ensuring that we learn to treat each other respectfully, and that we can work collaboratively, embracing our differences. It doesn't mean that we're all going to be exactly alike. That's not the point. The point is to embrace our differences, whether it's diversity of gender or race or ethnicity or style. There's much more to diversity than just gender and race.

SM: What types of tangible things can procurement do to be a leader in diversity and inclusion?

LC: Keep in mind that diversity has many manifestations — although it is commonly used to describe differences of race, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity, it really should be more broadly considered to include differences of culture, professional and educational background, work styles, personality and experience. As a leader in any organization, procurement included, building a team of diverse individuals creates a combined group to leverage different knowledge and perspectives and provides the opportunity to consider many different approaches to a problem or opportunity. As leaders, our responsibility is to identify talent and applicable skills to recruit into, and develop within, our organizations.

I think the most innovative leaders will look beyond traditional procurement roles to find talent and skills in unusual places, and then port that talent into the procurement disciplines. Building a truly diverse organization takes a concerted effort, both in the initial recruiting process and in the melding and ongoing management of a team with multidimensional dynamics.

SM: What is the best way to support fairness and equality within procurement organizations today?

LC: In this respect, procurement organizations are no different than any other organization in today’s corporations. Leaders should mindfully build diverse teams and strive to lead with impartiality — setting the right tone at the top is a priority. Providing an environment where all team members have a voice is critical, but may often require leaders and peers alike to seek out those voices to ensure they are heard. Leveraging each individual’s unique background and skill set to benefit the team, compensating them fairly and equally for their work, and providing the individual opportunities to grow and expand — this isn’t unique to procurement, it’s just good talent management.

More on how Coupa views talent management and other considerations within the 2018 competitive landscape the firm faces coming up in our next and final part in the series.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

See for yourself how Coupa ranked across multiple solution categories of Spend Matters’ Q4 2017 SolutionMap.

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