Why are women in procurement paid less than men?

The salary survey from the Next Level Purchasing Organisation that we featured here on launch suggested that female procurement staff in North America were less well rewarded than male – at every level except the very top CPO roles, interestingly. Why is that? Is it conscious discrimination, or something more subtle?

It may be linked to working patterns and the career interruption from having children in some cases. There has also been speculation that women are less likely to push for salary increases or negotiate hard when they take a new job. Perhaps they are more realistic, or have a less inflated view of their own worth. Certainly, I noticed one interesting trait when I did a lot of interviewing as CPO at NatWest – although I should say this is more than ten years ago now.

I would often ask young candidates, in their twenties, the clichéd but useful question – where do you want to be in five or ten year’s time?  Now the male candidates, even those who had been virtually monosyllabic for the previous half hour, would perk up and almost invariably say “I want to be doing your job!” The impressive young woman, by contrast, was likely to say “well, I’d like to make Category Manager in two or three years time, so within ten I would hope to be a senior Category Manager  ...”

Depending how you looked at it, the women were more realistic, or perhaps less arrogant about their own ability. But maybe that puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to salary discussions? The callow boy thinks he’s worth £40K, the poised young lady is happy with £30K.

But one controversial thought maybe. Is this, in part, a failure of negotiating skills? If women in procurement aren’t negotiating themselves a good deal, does that mean anything for their ability to operate on behalf of their organisations? Now that doesn’t chime with my experience, I’ll hastily say. As well as recruiting more women than men in my time as CPO, I promoted more too. And I have met some brilliant female negotiators.

So I guess at least this survey might be a wake-up call to women in procurement - you might want to make sure you’re not the victim of unconscious or indeed conscious discrimination in your organisation. It is hard to benchmark yourself within your own organisation, unless it is one of those places where everyone shouts about their own salary, and you need to handle it carefully of course. You might be able to use an external salary survey to help (not just this one, CIPS and ISM amongst other produce good examples).

But think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate your negotiating skills!

Voices (2)

  1. Woman Purchasing professional:

    I have a BA degree in Supply Chain Management and have experienced this inequity in pay in all 3 of my professional purchasing jobs. The reasons for this inequity in the 3 jobs:
    1st job – men had military experience also.
    2nd job – man (boss) had custodial selling experience – in reality – he owned his own carpet cleaning business where he drank a lot and got in trouble for sleeping with employees
    3rd job – I replaced a man who lied on resume saying he had degree when he didn’t and he made his own fake companies that he purchased equipment from. I was paid much less due to “restructuring of department”

  2. bitter and twisted:

    Interesting. But:

    Is the gender salary gap bigger or smaller in procurement than similar roles?

    How many male candidates talked themselves out of a job offer by being cocky?

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