International Women’s Day

We firmly believe in equality for all and have pledged to continue attracting a workforce that reflects this, not only for ourselves but for the clients and candidates we engage with.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific, you can find out more by clicking here.

This year, we spoke to women in procurement to hear what tips they’d give people starting a career in procurement, what makes it such a great career and what advice they’d give women in the profession who are trying to elevate their career.

Picture of Annabel Barry on the International Women's Day Procurement Heads' blog

“Applaud, encourage, defend and cheer on your fellow females and do it with an inspiring amount of love, energy and grace. As we do this more, we start to build a tribe of women who create a safe space for each other where we feel no longer alone through both the highs and the lows. Let us empower and have each other’s backs so that as individuals we can become the best versions of ourselves and together achieve the most incredible things.” Annabel Kaur Barry, Global Head of Digital & Marketing Procurement, Interpublic Group

“To get the best start investing your energy in understanding your stakeholders’ needs and building supplier relationships; the long term benefits of healthy relationships and stakeholder alignment will provide a solid foundation for the majority of your day to day activities.

“I feel I need a career where every day brings something different, I think procurement is the ideal career choice for those who thrive off variety.

“I believe each of us needs a mentor, invest time in finding the perfect one for you – one that challenges, coaches and supports. Then press ahead with achieving your career aspirations.” Laura Foley-Wright, Head of Subcontracts and Procurement, Leidos

There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish

Michelle Obama.

“For International Women’s Day 2021 I encourage all women to ‘Choose to Challenge’ their organisations to create the conditions for women to succeed. Be Brave!” Lucie Jaggar, Chief Procurement Officer, Barts Health NHS Trust

“Most importantly bring your authentic self to work each and every day, and know all personality types and styles can be an effective and successful buyer and procurement leader. Honing technical skills is important, but place high importance on relationships, empathy and interpersonal skills. This is what will make a huge difference in your ability to always achieve a win-win solution for all stakeholders.” Lorraine Copes, Founder and CEO, Be Inclusive Hospitality

Image of Lorraine Copes on the International Women's Day procurement blog

Image of Anna Thorncroft on the International Women's Day procurement blog

“Establish a relationship with a trusted mentor either inside or outside the procurement industry. Having a coach is also great, I found having a coach outside of both the procurement space and the industry I was in really useful as you can address and discuss challenges very objectively.

“Raise your profile by getting involved with various CIPS groups, there are some great groups for Women in Procurement. Establishing a Lean In Circle for women in procurement is a great way to network with fellow female procurement professionals across different industries.

“Regardless of where you are in your procurement career identifying senior sponsors within the business who will champion procurement and you is always helpful.” Anna Thorncroft, Head of Procurement, MTR Corporation (Crossrail)

What it takes to be a successful female leader today? It takes courage, tenacity, vision and empathy, but most importantly – it is a question of drive, attitude and never-ending learning and sharing with others. Keep an open mind, think out of the box and do not forget whatever you do you always work with people, so the clue is to be supportive, be inspirational and listen. Belief in one’s self capacity to handle any situation trough persistence, leadership and sense of humour.

Nadia Stoykov, MBA, JD
Chief Procurement & Supply Chain Officer at Tesca Group

“The diversity of sectors which procurement works with makes it an attractive career for anyone who wishes to widen their skillsets and have the freedom to shape their own path. I have worked in procurement on a variety of projects, ranging from HR, contingency workforce management, IT, championing supplier diversity and risk management. This extensive range of projects makes procurement a near-perfect career choice for those who want a challenging and rewarding role. For instance, one day I would be working on financial analysis and cost savings and the next day I am building relationships with suppliers.

“The current economic climate has also led to a surge in demand for procurement professionals, as businesses now realise the importance of supplier collaboration to gain competitive advantage and mitigate supply chain risks.” Vee Mumbire, Supply Chain Best Practice, Risk and Resilience Manager, NATS

Image of Emma Osborn on the International Women's Day procurement blog

“Look for a progressive company that invests in women and encourages them to develop their careers within their organisation. Some important factors to look out for would be how many women they have in senior leadership positions, how good their maternity leave and flexible working policies are and how open they are to listening to feedback and enacting changes.

“Use platforms such as LinkedIn to follow companies that you are interested in working at and connect with their procurement leads.” Karen Shine, Head of Clinical Procurement, King’s Facilities Management

“Bring your emotional intelligence, problem-solving and customer service strengths to a procurement role and career – it’s a people activity as much as it is a technical one.

“The variety, the challenges and the significant impact that procurement can make on people’s lives, safety, sustainability, society and the economy make procurement very fulfilling and meaningful work.

“Back yourself! Become aware of any negative self-talk and get it under control and in perspective. Build your internal and external network, not just of people in procurement but people in a variety of industries and professions. Make it a priority to invest time and energy in your personal and career development rather than losing yourself on the hamster wheel of tasks and emails. Sponsors, mentors and coaches can be invaluable if you can find good ones.” Emma Osborn, FCILT, Cyfarwyddwr Masnachol, Commercial Director, Wales & Western

To be successful in supply chain, trust your instincts and do not fear holding people to account. Most times this is all you have to do to make your job more productive and effective, adding real value to the organisation and casting yourself in a positive light. On a more personal note, with so much change always going on in supply chain, overcoming your inner saboteur is key. Recognise that loud internal voice that pulls you down, but, only listen to the shy little voice that keeps saying you were born to shine! Happy IWD to all of us!

Sarah Robbins
Procurement Executive, AstraZeneca

“To anyone starting a career in Procurement it sounds obvious, but work hard, get qualified and stay commercially aware to set yourself apart from the rest. It is a competitive industry but it is very rewarding to be instrumental in getting a deal done.

“You don’t have to be an expert in each category but you do have to listen and learn. Make sure you stay abreast of market issues and macro-environmental and economic issues that impact supply chains. Communication and collaboration are key to building relationships, respect the seller, don’t waste people’s time and always remain courteous and polite. Never forget that we are all there for the same end goal and always behave with integrity.

“My advice to anyone wanting to elevate themselves into a senior position; first of all, believe in yourself. Some of the best recent advice I was given was to be your own biggest cheerleader. Find yourself an honest outside cheerleader too – I would recommend a mentor, but if that is not feasible or available, then make sure you have someone who can give you reliable constructive feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask people what value you are adding or what value you could add – try to keep it positive. Take inspiration from other women in the profession and just be the best version of yourself.

“It is great to see more and more women in senior roles and I do believe that is happening slowly. I do believe part of the problem is that people don’t always know the roles are out there, or what they involve. I think it is important to make roles as flexible as possible to fit around family and life in general and that doesn’t have to apply only to women. This last year with the move to remote working and finding new and better ways to communicate can be a valuable step towards this.” Nicola Harvey, Procurement Director, ASSA ABLOY UK

“Procurement is continuously changing and evolving, so be prepared for an agile and dynamic journey filled with continuous learning.” Milica Habibovic, Head of Production Procurement, DS Smith

To be successful as a woman in supply chain we have to embrace what makes us different, go to the edge, be bold. Be a rebel. We spend too much time worrying about what other people think. Write your own story.

Sheri Hinish, SupplyChainQueen
IBM Global Partner, Sustainable Supply Chain

“I’m passionate about procurement and personally I think doing something you love and enjoy makes it a great career. From an everyday perspective the role is stimulating, fulfilling and challenging, spanning every discipline of the business you constantly learn new things; often fast-paced, problem-solving, influencing, and collaborating with a diverse business community whilst being able to see the output of your work in material effects to the P&L and operational efficiencies. From professional development and career progression perspective, there are multiple ways to join the profession and clear pathways to exec level and beyond should you want. The sky is the limit!” Deborah Warwick, Head of Procurement, Ted Baker

“Be curious, think outside of the box, look at the bigger picture, for instance, the impact of what is being procured and not just price.

“Procurement is a constantly evolving function, lots of opportunity to diversify into different categories, and even industries. You’ll never be bored!

“Be confident in your ability and be proactive to build a network or find a mentor/advocate that you trust.” Caroline Lloyd, Head of Procurement Operations North / Central Europe, DS Smith

“Procurement of FF&E is multi-faceted. From working closely with suppliers to develop one-off custom pieces, to overseeing the installation at destinations all over the world, no two days are the same and no two projects are the same. Problem solving and planning are key – working in procurement is both challenging and rewarding!” Helen Rolfs, Procurement Lead & Associate, Winch Design

Surround yourself with a panel of trusted advisors – cross industry & cross function. Be open to different perspectives and opportunities.
Help others.

Ruji Mahmud
Head Of Procurement, Efficient Natural Resources Sector at Johnson Matthey

“As with any career, the best way to succeed in procurement is to play to your strengths and find good role models to help you fill in the gaps. There will have been things about a career in procurement that would have attracted you in the first place and these are likely to be the traits that you are naturally good at, but if you have a learning and growth mindset and always be on the lookout for ways to develop your skills, even those that come naturally, you will definitely succeed.” Sarah Walters, Director, Aster Commercial Services

“A procurement career may sound a little stayed, but hold on tight, it’ll be an exciting ride! Unlike many other professions, a career in procurement is fast-paced, multi-disciplined and exhilarating. We get to work with all areas of a business, at all levels. No two days are the same, and sometimes the pressure can be immense, but in a good way! Regardless of your journey into the procurement world, you’ll get to work with great teams across finance, IT, logistics, legal, project management, operations – to name just a few. And let’s not forget the suppliers, who add a real drop of colour to our jobs on a daily basis.

“The potential to grow and develop in a procurement team is phenomenal; not just developing or progressing upwards – although of course, that is there – but also more horizontal opportunities across categories, and broadening skills into areas such as law and finance.

“Procurement is such a rewarding role for anyone with the appetite for a dynamic and stimulating career.” Lucy Dow, Director, Aster Commercial Services

“Every day in procurement is different – it is an exciting career, allowing you to really add value to an organisation.

“It truly requires a balance of technical, commercial and behavioural skills, which provide for significant personal development along the way.”

Hannah Jarvis, Procurement Operations Director, Network Rail

We recently created ProcureMentor, a mentoring programme for procurement professionals across the industry to share their experience and gain valuable insight from peers.

If you would like to register to become a mentor/mentee, click here to fill in your details.

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