Procurement Comes 8th Out of 202 Occupations on Diversity – That’s NOT Good News

Great news for the procurement profession!

In a survey covering no less than 202 occupations, and based on the 2015 England and Wales Labour Force Survey data, “Purchasing managers and directors” comes in with a magnificent 8th place in the table of diversity in each occupation. Quite an achievement isn’t it, we can all feel very proud …

Oh, just hang on a minute.  Let's look at that report more carefully. Right. That is 8th on the list of the LEAST diverse occupations, as calculated by think-tank Policy Exchange in their report, THE TWO SIDES OF DIVERSITY - Which are the most ethnically diverse occupations?  (Thanks go to Supply Management for bringing this to our attention).

That’s right, out of the 202 occupations listed, senior procurement roles are ranked at number 195 out of 202. Only 6.9% of purchasing managers and directors come from “minorities”, with 4.6% non-white.

What is really shocking is to compare with the other occupations in the “bottom ten” list. Farmers, the least diverse, gardeners, animal care services; it is easy to explain those given that UK immigration has been largely urban. Junior police officers is on the list; the mistrust of the police perhaps felt by some minorities explains that.

Engineering technicians and skilled trades supervisors may be less clear in terms of logical explanation, but our category is the worst performing of all the real white-collar professional occupations in the list. HR managers comes in at number 149, marketing and sales directors at 123, not great but much better than procurement. Quantity surveyors are the closest of the comparable professions at number 187.

At a more junior level, “buyers and procurement officers” is ranked at number 60, very respectable, with minority representation very close to that of the population generally.  But does that make this worse? Does that mean we have plenty of minorities represented at junior levels in the profession, but very few making it through to senior posts, which frankly might suggest some endemic issues of discrimination?

This is something I’ve considered writing about previously, usually after I’ve been to a large procurement event and looked around the room at a sea of white faces. Female representation has got somewhat better in the profession over the years, although there is still an issue with women getting into the very top jobs, but let’s leave that for another day. But look around a ProcureCon, eWorld, or Procurement Leaders conference and there really aren’t many non-white faces.

The other paradox perhaps is – and I am very mindful of stereotypes here – that certain ethnic groups at least are perceived to have very strong skills in bargaining, negotiation and deal-making, still pretty core skills for procurement. So we might intuitively expect to see procurement doing well here; in any case, this is very disappointing and worrying for the profession.

In part 2 tomorrow we will come back and look at why this might be happening.

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