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Empowering women in procurement

Overcoming challenges and inspiring inclusion
By Jane Shortall on 8 March 2024

The procurement landscape is a vibrant ecosystem of professionals navigating the intricate web of supply chains, negotiations, and strategic decision-making. However, amidst this dynamic landscape, a disparity persists – the under-representation of women in procurement roles. This gender gap poses challenges not only to the individuals affected but also to the profession as a whole.

As a celebration of International Women’s Day 2024, we are taking a closer look at the compelling reasons why women should consider procurement as a career path, highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion in driving innovation and success, and recognising actions that organisations can take to #InspireInclusion.

Globally, procurement is undeniably male-dominated, with women holding approximately 38% of roles of which 25% are in leadership positions. The good news is that whilst this disparity presents a significant challenge not only for individual career progression but also for the industry as a whole, the numbers are shifting in a positive direction as many more women over recent years have chosen to enter the profession.

Challenges faced by women in procurement

Despite significant strides towards gender equality, there are several factors which may be contributing to an underrepresentation of women in the profession:

  • Historical biases: Procurement has long been perceived as a male-dominated domain, perpetuating stereotypes and biases that may impede women’s career progression.
  • Limited representation in leadership: The scarcity of female leaders in procurement means a lack of access to senior female mentors who can advocate, provide guidance and offer mentorship opportunities for aspiring women professionals.
  • Unconscious bias in hiring: Unconscious bias in recruitment processes may disadvantage female candidates, affecting their access to procurement roles and advancement opportunities.
  • Work-life balance struggles: The demanding nature of procurement roles, characterised by tight deadlines and in some cases extensive travel, can pose challenges for women balancing professional commitments with familial responsibilities and disproportionately impact women’s ability to stay committed to their careers.
  • Unclear career paths: The lack of well-defined career progression pathways in procurement can leave women feeling unsure of how to navigate towards leadership roles.

Why should women choose procurement as a career path?

With all these challenges it would be easy to see why so few women choose to become procurement professionals, but it can offer a wealth of opportunities for women seeking fulfilling and impactful careers. It’s an area of business that requires a diverse skill set, encompassing negotiation, relationship management, strategic planning, and analytical capabilities – qualities that women often excel in and can leverage to thrive in the profession.

At the heart of procurement is the drive for creating and maintaining value for society, driving sustainability initiatives and fostering ethical sourcing practices. This means the profession can have a direct positive impact – be that on the local community or on a global scale.

Procurement is a career you can stick with for life, offering ample opportunities for career growth and advancement, with the potential to reach senior leadership roles and executive positions.

6 actions organisations can take to foster inclusivity in procurement

With many organisations struggling to recruit and retain procurement talent, encouraging or promoting women within the profession is not only a matter of equity but also strategically important for organisations that are looking to drive innovation, resilience and success.

Here are our top tips for creating a more inclusive and equitable environment:

  1. Promote diversity and inclusion: Organisations should be looking to prioritise diversity and inclusion efforts, implementing policies and practices that promote gender balance across their organisation and leadership positions.
  2. Unconscious bias training: Educating stakeholders about unconscious bias and implementing strategic goals or targets to mitigate its impact in hiring and promotion decisions can really help level the playing field for women in procurement.
  3. Mentoring and sponsorship initiatives: Connecting women with experienced mentors and sponsors can provide invaluable support and guidance for career advancement.
  4. Clear career progression pathways and development plans: Establishing transparent career paths with defined milestones and training opportunities can empower women to pursue leadership roles.
  5. Flexible working: Offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options, part-time roles and flexible schedules can accommodate the needs of an inclusive workforce, facilitating better work-life balance.
  6. Targeted initiatives: Launching specific initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining women in procurement, such as apprenticeships and networking events, can make a positive impact on your recruitment outcomes.

Embracing and empowering women in procurement not only strengthens the profession but also drives innovation, sustainability and success in today’s challenging business environment. By building on diverse perspectives, varying skills and leadership qualities, organisations can inspire inclusion within the profession and create a more dynamic and impactful procurement community in the UK and beyond.

Additional resources:

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jane shortfall contract negotiation consultant

Jane Shortall

Jane has over 15 years’ experience of working in B2B sales and marketing. She oversees the sales strategy for eXceeding, but also directly engages with our clients, to understand their challenges and translate them into a tailored service offer to meet their specific needs.

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