Women in Procurement Wednesday: Lisa Reisman advocates for women to stand up for their careers, especially when facing challenges

Lisa Reisman is the CEO of Azul Partners Inc., the parent company of Spend Matters and MetalMiner.

Women reached a new milestone in 2020. Early this year, women held 50.04% of American jobs. It may be by a slim .04%, but women now officially comprise the majority of the American workforce.

In the last five years, women entering the workforce helped fuel a booming economy, which COVID-19 quickly put quite a damper on. After years of progress, we’re now facing the looming reality of new challenges for women in the workplace. Women in female-dominated industries are facing layoffs and extra pressures to keep their home lives happy and thriving during this pandemic.

If women working in traditionally female-dominated areas are facing these extra challenges, it makes one wonder what that looks like in male-dominated fields.

Take the procurement industry, for example. A recent Oliver Wyman survey found that women made up only 38% of 300 procurement organizations studied across 14 industries.

Thirty years ago, when Lisa Reisman joined the metals industry, that number was likely much lower. In the ‘90s, women were obviously working all kinds of jobs. But many of them held a smaller percentage of the best-paying jobs. It was up to women to learn to advocate for themselves then, and now.

Reisman is the Founder and Executive Editor of MetalMiner, a pricing platform and media outlet that helps metal buyers negotiate with confidence and source strategically by better equipping buyers to make better decisions based on important market trends, drivers, and price movements. She also happens to be the CEO of Azul Partners, Inc., the parent company of both Spend Matters and MetalMiner.

The metals industry is traditionally the old proverbial “boys’ club”, and could be considered an intimidating place for a young woman to begin her career.

“I never stopped to think about [being a woman],” Reisman said. “It's never been something that I spent a minute thinking about, worrying about, wondering if I was getting paid what somebody else was getting paid.”

“I never thought about any of that. Now, if I look back and say to myself, ‘Was I disadvantaged or was it harder for me as a woman in my field?’ Yeah maybe if we looked at different criteria and you had somebody else that was doing something similar to me, they might be further ahead maybe, because they were invited to play golf and developed that relationship more solidly than I did. I suppose there's probably some differences that way.”

Just because Reisman didn’t treat herself differently from her male counterparts doesn’t mean that people didn’t try to treat her differently, for whatever reason.

Every woman can relate to the moment when a co-worker did something that crossed the line. Reisman recalled a story when a male higher up than her attempted to ban her from talking to a peer at a competing company because it was a partnership he wanted to nurture. Rather than accepting that as fate, she called him out on his unacceptable behavior.

Reisman was in her early 30’s at the time, but by then, she had already carved out her place in the industry as a strategist and manager for companies looking to enhance their supplier relationship management, specifically in metals.

“Stand up for yourself and do not put up with anything,” Reisman said. “I don't care where you are on the totem pole, or who's above you. ... There should be zero tolerance. You should not fear that you're going to get fired or going to lose your position or whatever. … You have to have a spine about you and fight for what's right, and put your foot down and just say, ‘That's completely inappropriate.’ ”

Looking back on her extensive career, Reisman advises everyone to diverge. To find the path least traveled and go down it. Reisman began her career trading metals before toying with the idea of entering a new industry. Reisman detoured through New York University to receive a master’s in public administration, where she wanted to become a corporate lobbyist but then decided to enter international business.

However, she always felt like metals was a siren song pulling her back. Reisman’s skills at buying metals across multiple sourcing categories proved too valuable to give up. And she has become an expert in the field — marrying all her skills and knowledge in metals, procurement, international business and journalism to carve her own path as a female leader in metals’ pricing, forecasting and sourcing.

“If you can make yourself invaluable wherever you are, you will always be gainfully employed. Always. That's really the challenge, so the second your job becomes robotic or rinse-and-repeat, then to me that's a job that can be automated or you can find somebody more junior to do it,” Reisman said.

“But when you're thinking about, ‘Wow, I've created this whole little carved-out thing that I do that is unique to me, that adds value to this company,’ that's how you grow and empower yourself to get a better title, get more money, get more responsibility, etc. ... It's not just a woman empowerment thing, it's just a professional empowerment thing.”

While we at Spend Matters may not be able to single-handedly bring gender parity to the industry, we want to remind women that they’re not alone. We may have different backgrounds and experiences, but all of us have dealt with new challenges and fear in the past year.

By amplifying voices of women in procurement, we hope to showcase new perspectives and highlight stories, that for various reasons, may not otherwise be told. We’re so excited to share stories about women in the field who are negotiating millions off of supplier contracts, making incredibly difficult decisions about risk management, programming AI engines, or going for their Series C funding round — while simultaneously potentially helping their child through remote learning or just trying to sneak in a workout for their own mental sanity.

If you’ve been following our social media channels recently, you might have noticed a new weekly feature called “Women in Procurement Wednesdays.” Lisa Reisman was just the first of many empowering women to share her expertise on procurement with our audience. See you next Wednesday.

Are you a woman in the procurement space who has a compelling story to tell? We’re all ears. Send us an email at: sehrmann@spendmatters.com.

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