Procurement’s Gender Gap – Is It Really A Procurement Problem?

An article published by Procurement Leaders that popped up in my feed the other day managed to be both thought-provoking and somewhat naïve in equal measure.

Part 1 – Exposing procurement’s gender gap: Factors affecting pay looks at the Procurement Leaders Salary Survey which regularly highlights the gender gap. But, it says “the reasons for such a gap are often inconclusive and speculative at best”.  However, “new unseen research, gathered during the survey, looks at this issue in more detail and attempts to uncover the hidden factors at play in this disparity”.

The analysis is interesting and looks at factors such as different sectors, geographies and roles. There seems to be something significant about female procurement managers having fewer direct reports than men as they get more senior, which possibly affects salaries. There are also significant differences between sectors – in the public sector and not-for-profit industry women on average make 94% of their male equivalents, while in the manufacturing sector that is just 67%.

All good stuff, but the crunch comes with the analysis by region and country. In the UAE, women make just 39% of male salaries – although we don’t know from the article whether that reflects them holding more junior roles, or a more blatant bias. In Malaysia that relative figure is 46% and in Hong Kong 53%. At the other end of the scale, good old Denmark pays women 104% of men’s salaries!

We do recommend you read the whole article here, but the naivety comes with the final comments.

“Procurement needs to ask why this is happening and set a strategy to bring salaries into line. Women are valuable members of the a procurement team and can bring a different line of thinking that adds value. If the function continues to allow these disparities to exist, it risks losing them to a different function”.

Does Procurement Leaders really think that the role of women in the UAE procurement workforce is purely a procurement problem? That it is much better in HR or Sales? Is the issue of sexual equality in Asian societies and cultures something that a few “procurement leaders” can seriously address?

It is well worth highlighting the issues here, and we’re all for CPOs being aware of them and doing what they can to improve matters. (We also highlighted here some racial issues procurement may have in the UK, which are perhaps just as worrying). But in terms of entrenched social attitudes in certain parts of the world, it unfortunately seems unlikely that even the best efforts of a few CPOs are going to change this too much.

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