Women in Procurement – Spend Matters USA Takes Up the Cause

Our US colleagues at Spend Matters are starting a new series, all about women in procurement. We confess to mixed feelings at this. In part, it was a “what a good idea, why didn’t we think of that first”?  I did start wondering whether we should do the same.

But a few doubts started creeping in. Do we really need to pay particular attention to this issue, was the main question. It is some years now since CIPS found that the new MCIPS graduates were split perfectly 50:50 male/female, and if you go to any CPO type gathering these days, women may be in a slight minority but it doesn’t seem a big difference. I’ve come across many female procurement leaders who were new to me on my travels recently - including from RBS, Inmarsat, Shell, RWE and several other firms across quite a range of sectors.

On the other hand, I know it still isn't easy in some organisations and I also know of female procurement executives who have benefited from mentoring and just swapping experiences with other senior women in the profession. So I don't disagree with the idea that there are some female-focused actions that can be helpful; of course we would encourage anything that individuals find useful to develop their skills and knowledge. Equally, every organisation should make sure it does not have any conscious or unconscious biases or barriers that are stopping them employing the best people, whoever they might be.

There are certainly some sectors as well where women are not as well represented in senior roles as they perhaps should be. For instance, and strangely enough, central government in the UK has never been very good for female procurement leaders, even now with Sally Collier at the very top of the pyramid.

But to be blunt, in the UK, and I suspect Europe, the question of ethnic minority representation at the senior levels of the profession seems possibly more of a issue. I have looked around the various conferences I’ve attended in recent months and seen a sea of white faces. Once you focus on the issue, it is quite striking at times. Perhaps at more junior levels that is changing and a new generation will work their way through to more senior levels in the next 10 years or so?

Anyway, we’d love to hear whether our readers think there is more we could or should do in this area (across the various diversity issues) to promote the right thinking and behaviours. And we will follow our US colleagues’ series with interest. Their first interview in the series is with Barb Ardell, and is well worth reading – generally interesting and with some really good advice for male and female procurement executives!

First Voice

  1. Chantelle:

    It is not all about women. It is not all about [insert skin colour, race, religion]. We should look at ”diversity” from a wider lens.

    Promoting women in leadership, and for that matter greater diversity.. well, I believe from my own experience, the biggest advocates for female procurement leaders are the men already in those leadership positions.

    An old (male) boss once told me – ”You’re going to take my job” and then, before I could voice my rebuttal, followed up with ”and I’m going to help you”. That was impactful.

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