International Women’s Day on Sunday (8 March) got me thinking about some of the female leaders I’ve worked with throughout my time recruiting in the Procurement sector.
As a young female professional myself, I thrive on working with inspirational women and am a firm believer that those you work with hugely impact and shape your career.
As such, I’d love to see more women progressing through the ranks to CPO.
Research shows that 38% of leaders in Procurement are female.
That’s not a bad statistic, but when 48% of Procurement graduates are female, it’s clear we are losing women from the sector as they progress through their career.
So, what makes a strong Procurement leader?
When I think of the inspirational female CPOs I know, here is what comes to mind.
Confident and self-aware
When I think of the strong women I’ve worked with, I think of people who are confident and centred.
They are in touch with their strengths and weaknesses.
To me, a true leader is someone who is aware of their skills and abilities and isn’t afraid to admit when they don’t know the answer but have the confidence and capability to figure it out!
Resilience and determination
In a sector that is still somewhat male-dominated – and can involve managing sometimes challenging stakeholders – the strong female leaders of the Procurement world need to hold their own!
Demonstrating resilience in difficult situations says a lot about an individual’s character.
I believe it’s the ability to not give up when such challenges arise that makes a truly inspirational leader.
Well-networked and supportive
We all know the value of relationships, and the women who have inspired my career certainly know how to both build and maintain a solid network around them.
Good leaders recognise the value of everyone around them and seek to learn from others – rather than stepping on those around them to get where they want to be!
As a relatively young profession that is still evolving, the identity of Procurement will be shaped by those at the very beginning of their careers.
So, what can we do to help young women kickstart their journey in Procurement to develop and advance to the leadership level?
I asked some of my contacts for their thoughts…
“Women add a balancing perspective to the workforce and often contribute towards a calmer more compassionate team dynamic with emotional intelligence at the forefront of strategic thinking. In my opinion, any initiative that celebrates a diverse, multidimensional working environment can only benefit us all therefore it’s great to see women being celebrated today.”
Amy Brogan, Strategic Sourcing Director, Foodbuy
“Believe in yourself and your abilities, speak up and be heard. But equally, know when to accept the decision and try to understand why it’s been taken. Respect everyone you work with, from the lowest to the highest level, and this includes suppliers. Relationships are everything and we are all doing our job as best we can, so support where you can, and try and see things from everyone’s perspectives – it really helps in getting that win-win!
“Be positive, think outside the box, offer up innovative ideas. Take every opportunity to learn, whether it’s a new category, a new role or a new project. Even if it’s something you’ve never done before, don’t know anything about or don’t particularly want to do, just do it, you will be surprised what you’ll learn and where it can take you!
And finally, have integrity in all that you do!”
Patricia Hand, Head of Category Services, Foodbuy
“Never be afraid to step forward and accept a challenge. Have faith in yourself and your ability. Confidence grows from that self-belief. Something that you scares you once tackled quickly slots into the business as usual category.”
Karen Hodson, Head of Procurement and Supply Chain, Aspire Defence Services
“Make time to encourage and nurture talent by becoming a mentor through a formal or informal arrangement.”
Anna Rozhko, Senior Manager of Customers Supply Chain, EDF
“When I was starting my career in an exclusively male team, I did feel some pressure to compete with the men, act a certain way and generally was not encouraged to be myself.
“Hopefully, young women today are appreciated for the diversity they bring to the workplace and can be confident that by being their true selves they are maximising the contribution they make to the workplace.
“Everyone in the workplace has a responsibility to provide all the support and encouragement we can to our colleagues, but we also have an amazing opportunity to learn from and be challenged by new and differing perspectives.”
Tara Dibble, Procurement Services Director, Serco
“Effective leadership requires vision and purpose. The ability to create a compelling picture of a future state and to motivate others to embrace these ideas.”
Sarah Ellis, Interim Procurement Consultant
“Having started in Procurement straight from University, I feel lucky to have entered a profession that has supported my growth and development throughout my career as well as allowing me to be the best mother that I can be.
“I can relate to Sophie’s thoughts, it would be good to see more young females who are passionate about our function progress through the ranks to reach CPO status.
“I would also add ‘authenticity’ and ‘being genuine’ as character traits demonstrated by CPO inspirational leaders. It’s that ability to connect with all sorts of people at a personal level and to come from a place of collaboration when in negotiation that achieves the maximum amount of results for the long-term.
“As Procurement people, we have such an enormous impact on our organisations, industry and the world. I have a fundamental belief that we are in the best position to improve all of the ethical and environmental responsibilities across the supply chain helping to provide a better future for generations to come. No other single profession has this amount of power over our future.”
Victoria Niemiec, Head of Procurement, Rich Products
“I would say that the blog is very relevant and clearly lays out the challenges ahead of an aspiring female leader. In order to help, my thoughts would be that we need to give women the space and support to operate within their own style and values. It’s the very nature of creating diversity and benefitting from diverse views and approaches that we want to achieve so we need to embrace the fact that everyone will operate in a different way.”
Sally Ockenden, Procurement Director, Carnival
“Having recruited a younger member to the team last year, I wanted to ensure there were no gender pay gap issues from the start. I made it my mission to ensure that I didn’t get any push back in terms of her age or experience to be a factor to offering a lower salary, nor allowing the female to accept a lower offer as – we tend to accept what we are given without asking for more!
“I employed her based on her merit, personality and tenacity shown to get the job done well. Seven months in and she is one of my strongest talents within the team. I also promote her at senior management meetings to ensure her name and reputation gets embedded in the minds of the decision-makers across the business.
“It is my responsibility to ensure the females within my team are given as much opportunity and exposure as possible. Men tend to be good at self-promoting whereas females don’t feel the need to do it or feel they shouldn’t. My job is to showcase the female talent within my team at every opportunity.”
Vikki Sargeant, Head of Commodity Management, Siemens
“Procurement has been an extremely diverse and rewarding career for me. It’s important to remain curious and continue to seek out new challenges. By stepping outside of your comfort zone, you will get a real sense of achievement and most importantly build up your confidence.
“Creating caring connections with colleagues and stakeholders is a key ingredient for success – your network is an invaluable source of support.”
Claire Jones, Head of Procurement, Roche
“I would highly recommend a mentor. Mentors throughout my career have had a strong influence on my development giving sound advice, support, challenged my thinking and encouraged me to go further.”
Kay Denyer, Head of Indirect Procurement, Hastings Direct