Improving D&I in Procurement & Supply – Breaking the Male-Dominated Mould

Diversity and inclusion is moving up the CPO agenda; testimony to that was made at SAP Ariba Live recently and in our discussion with Paul Harlington FCIPS, Group Procurement Director for TUI in the run up to the CPO event later this month. Today, Jeanette Reilly, a Procurement & Supply Chain Manager at Michael Page recruitment specialists, gives her take on the advantages of diversity and inclusion for procurement and supply organisations.

Diversity has been high on the list of priorities for many industries in the UK, however, few manufacturing businesses place diversity and inclusion (D&I) at the forefront of their business proposition. Procurement and supply, like every other business function, should aspire to attract and retain top talent to drive success in today’s ever-evolving market, but, as with a number of the technical disciplines, the biggest struggle is attracting women into specific roles, particularly in predominantly male-dominated SME manufacturing companies that have traditionally hired males into senior procurement and supply chain (P&SC) positions.

A diverse workforce brings a unique set of experiences and perspectives. Many supply chains have begun the journey of embedding real inclusion and diversity into their business, however, the reality of D&I being at the core of each P&SC function is a further distance than most first thought.

Inclusion is the key to diversity in the workplace

Organisations have a duty to their workforce to strive to build a more inclusive culture. Countless studies have found a clear link between diversity and increased performance in the workplace. A combination of integral diversity such as age or gender when combined with acquired knowledge such as language skills, can be used to influence business success in a complex and evolving marketplace. Without an inclusive culture, a diverse workforce will not thrive.

What are the benefits of promoting inclusion in the work place?

  • Those who are working for organisations that promote inclusion are more empowered to voice their opinions and are given the support they need to excel in their roles.
  • Promoting D&I in the workplace sends a strong message to all employees throughout the business that they are valued, their opinions are respected, and that hard work and dedication will be rewarded.
  • Companies that promote a healthy work culture that supports its people and celebrates D&I will ultimately attract a more diverse pool of talent, which will lead to improved innovation.

Overcoming the challenge in procurement and supply chain

Procurement and supply chain is a continuously evolving landscape, and with some positions more difficult to hire for than others, it is crucial to diversify the talent pool. Over the past two decades, there has been a decline in training and apprenticeship programmes, which has caused a decrease in talented and skilled professionals available for technical roles. In order to combat the talent shortage, businesses can benefit from hiring for “cultural fit” and developing this talent into the future.

When considering cultural fit, it is crucial to consider hiring those whose core values and beliefs are in line with your organisation and have a clear understanding of your customers. These candidates often slip through the net during the recruitment process, as too much emphasis is placed on their technical capability, rather than what else they can bring to the organisation.

In order to build a more inclusive workforce it is essential to take into account the need to attract more talented women into the sector and the benefits that a more diverse workforce can bring, for instance, at supply chain networking events, the lack of female representatives is still surprisingly low. The ‘2018 women in supply chain research’ report from Gartner highlighted that respondents believe that ‘increasing the presence and visibility of senior women leaders’ is one of the most important actions businesses should take to influence the ability to recruit better, retain, and advance women to senior levels.

To achieve a more inclusive and diverse workforce, D&I needs to be at the heart of everything you do. Leaders in your organisation need to be prepared to confront this and eliminate any unconscious bias that still exists in their businesses. Opening up the doors to hiring more women into senior positions can have a considerable influence on the culture, reputation and the supply chain career brand of a company in ways that are critical to building more gender-diverse supply chain functions. By focusing on the diversity at the leadership level, you can ensure that you are viewed as an attractive business to work for by a more diverse pool of talent.

The opinions expressed in guest posts are those of the author and not necessarily those of Spend Matters

It is true to say, however, that we are seeing more and more D&I within the procurement and supply industry. Just recently we were delighted to see that at the recent SAPAriba Live event – the first morning was dominated by female speakers, as Peter Smith reported who covered Day 1 for us: “… Tifenn Dano Kwan, Ariba’s CMO, as our host, introducing five other speakers, who all had one thing in common – they were women. This was clearly a statement, and a very welcome one, thinking back to the many, many events I’ve been to over the years which were totally male-dominated.”



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