Women in Procurement Wednesday: Jamie Crump on diversity, gender and knowing what you won’t accept

Jamie Crump is an author and consultant. (LinkedIn)

While Jamie Crump’s typical day may look like that of many others’ in today’s pandemic world — virtual meetings and remote speaking engagements — her journey to get her where she is today certainly took a scenic route. As the author of “Backstage Pass: Pulling the Curtain Back on the Business of Supplier Diversity,” Crump has over 25 years of experience in supply chain and supplier diversity.

Today, a typical day consists of a lot of meetings. She works with clients on the phone, attends Zoom meetings and does a lot of research to fuel her business, The Richwell Group, where she is the president.

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The company does consulting in supply chain and supplier diversity, working with large companies to map out a supply chain strategy or to get ready to start a supplier diversity program. And it works with small businesses in growth mode once they start to scale and get successful. (Crump has even assisted Spend Matters as an advisory board member.) Her firm also works with certified diverse companies that want to leverage diversity certification.

Her days certainly looked different, however, when she first started her career. Crump couldn’t afford college right out of high school, so she went to work at a company that focused on medical and welding equipment and gas. She started as the receptionist. “They couldn’t keep me busy,” she said.

The company then assigned her to work for the man running procurement, but after several months, he left. When a replacement was brought in but didn’t work out, Crump took over in purchasing — in welding.

As a woman working in these industries, there were certainly obstacles that had to be overcome.

Crump felt she was in a good position, though, because she was running the department. There wasn’t a whole lot of flack she had to take, although she still had some things to learn.

One lesson learned along the way was that, despite how people may treat you as a woman in procurement and supply chain, more often than not you are still going to have to do business with those people — but you need to do it on your terms.

In our talk, we also discussed racial diversity. I quoted to Crump a statistic from an interview she did earlier this year with ISM on her book: that for every percentage increase in racial or gender diversity up to the rate represented in the relevant population, the organization sees an increase in sales revenue of approximately 9% for racial diversity and 3% for gender diversity. As Crump said, between the COVID-19 pandemic and the national calls for an end to systemic racism, the two things she works with are under the microscope now more than ever — supply chain and supplier diversity.

Crump also discussed how procurement and supplier diversity can occasionally be at odds with one another. While procurement often takes the “less is more” mentality, supplier diversity may encourage the use of two or three vendors for one area of procurement. With supply chain issues resulting from the pandemic, some organizations are now looking at securing additional vendors to have one ready to step in or as a backup if something happens with their main vendor.

This really opens the door to opportunities for supplier diversity. If before, a procurement department was concerned that smaller, diverse suppliers wouldn’t be able to handle the volume of their needs, dividing the spend between two or more vendors changes the whole situation. Plus, as Crump said, diverse-owned suppliers are often more nimble, flexible and willing to take that phone call when it comes down to it.

What else has opened the door to support supplier diversity?

Social media. Fifteen years ago, customers didn’t really know what a company stood for or supported. Now, with platforms like Twitter and Facebook, news of an injustice spreads quickly. In years past, organizations didn’t want to deal with political or social issues — the best thing to say was “no comment” or to have no opinion, or a neutral one.

Now, organizations are saying “no more” and are taking a stand; the “no comment” organizations are now the ones under the microscope.

Not only are organizations no longer taking the “no comment” route, but the topics of supplier diversity and diversity and inclusion (DNI) are becoming more and more C-suite material, as they should. Crump said what’s really going to push the needle these days is when companies try to get funding, and venture capitalists are committing their investment dollars to organizations with supplier diversity and DNI.

Even with efforts toward supplier diversity and DNI, we “can’t just draw a line in the sand.” Just because these have become important concepts for many organizations across the nation, and people are calling for an end to systemic racism, does not mean that things will be fixed overnight. Crump knows this from experience, having grown up in the 1960’s splitting her time between the South and Michigan. Even if slavery took place hundreds of years ago, it is still so impactful today.

In addition to the rise of support for supplier diversity and DNI, what trends has Crump seen in procurement and supply chain as of late?

“Data, data, data,” she said. When she started her career, people had to dig for weeks to get a little shred of data. Now, the problem is what to do with all the data you have?

A big part of that is turning it into change to make things better. Procurement today is a lot more involved in that and is viewed as much more a strategic part of the whole overall process than in years past.

We ended our conversation on the topic of advice, the kind Crump would give to others or the advice she has received during her career.

When it comes to others in the fields of procurement and supply chain — especially women — Crump tells them to “understand what you won’t accept, then don’t apologize for it.”

When it comes to advice she has received and would share, Crump touched on confidence, authority and education. Most often, you can have as much authority as you are willing to presume; especially for women, as we tend to go in thinking people are judging us or that they think we’re not as good. But if you remain confident, keep educating yourself and know that you are there for a reason, you can conquer that situation at hand.

In life, no matter who you are, people often tend to think that the life they are living is what everybody is living. With education and a diverse perspective, “it’s good to be able to pull the curtain back … pun totally intended.”

Read more of our "Women in Procurement Wednesday" coverage here.

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