Why procurement needs more women leaders

Published on March 08, 2022
Why procurement needs more women leaders

 If there is one industry that should value and esteem diversity, it is procurement. 

 Procurement roles are complicated at both a technical and interpersonal level. For procurement organisations to successfully navigate this increasingly complex space, they need to empower leaders who are agile, can solve complex problems, have the ability to work collaboratively, are outstanding communicators, and have excellent stakeholder management skills. 

 While these skills aren’t necessarily gender specific, recent studies show that gender parity in procurement could be the key to better overall performance, from regular operations through to new innovations. 

 We explore some key reasons why procurement needs more female leaders, and what needs to be done to encourage more women into leadership roles. 

 Greater diversity improves the bottom line

 To remain at the forefront of a fast-paced industry such as procurement, companies need to be prioritising diversity, especially in leadership roles. As many forward-thinking organisations recognise, the reasons to encourage a more diverse workforce aren’t only cultural or ethical – they are financial. 

 There is a growing body of evidence on how the gender composition of companies correlates with an organisation’s bottom line. According to recent studies, companies with the greatest gender balance at the C-suite level are more likely to achieve above average financial results. 

 In telling statistics from a study conducted by OliverWyman, CPOs whose organisations consist of 40 percent or more women reported substantially better performance than those at companies where women represent fewer than one-fifth of those working in the function. In addition to this, 76 percent of CPOs interviewed stated they perceived more creativity and innovation thanks to the presence of more women on their teams. 

 As creativity and innovation become even more pivotal in a competitive marketplace, so too will how procurement organisations elevate and support women into more leadership roles. 

More female leaders leads to enhanced stakeholder relationships 

 Traditionally, procurement has tended to be seen as largely disconnected from the main functioning of a business. In some traditional circles, the procurement function was viewed as more of a compliance role than a client-facing one, requiring quality assurance and logistics planning over people skills. 

 In the modern age of procurement, the reality of the procurement role has dramatically changed. Procurement experts are now an integral part of a business’ function at both an operational and company values level. Businesses and organisations across different sectors now place increased importance on what they are sourcing, how they are sourcing it, and how it is being used. With sustainable and ethical procurement signposted as the future direction for the industry, exceptional relationship management is more important than ever.  

 With this focus shift, many procurement roles now require professionals and experts in the field to be adept negotiators and superior communicators to support their technical skill base. Women can bring to the table certain communication and interpersonal skills which align with the shift in the industry to more of a partnership model. Procurement organisations that can better utilise the female talent in their business for the development, maintenance and deepening of important strategic relationships are more likely to reap the benefits than their traditional competitors. 

 More women in leadership means better recruits and improved employee retention 

 Elevating more women in procurement leadership roles doesn’t just mean better outcomes for women – everyone benefits from the substantive changes women in these roles can bring. 

 With demand for flexible working conditions on the rise, procurement companies are starting to pay attention to what emerging top talent is looking for. Regardless of gender, top recruits are looking for an inclusive work culture, excellent benefits, flexible work options and family parental support. More female advocates in senior roles dramatically increases the likelihood that these important initiatives are implemented, reviewed and enhanced in line with employee expectations and shifting needs.

 While there are signs that procurement organisations are moving toward gender parity, there’s still a long way to go. Despite the growing number of women in procurement, they account only for 25 percent of the members of procurement management committees and management teams – one or two levels below the executive committee. Unfortunately, this reported growth also tends to be short-lived. A recent Mercer report indicates that although women are increasingly more likely than men to be hired at the executive level, they are also leaving organisations from the highest rank at 1.3 times the rate of men, potentially slowing progress and wiping out hard-won gains.

 Encouraging more women in procurement leadership roles

 At its core, procurement is about mastering diversification. Procurement specialists need to understand and conquer the challenges of an ever-shifting supply chain. They must have priority access to a wide range of both goods and services. Finally, they need to comprehend the depth and breadth of relationships needed to make things happen when they need to. In short, procurement requires a number of skills, specialities and abilities that women leaders can bring to the table. 

 However, elevating women to leadership roles in procurement won’t happen without a number of key factors in play. It will require an awareness of the need for structural change from the top down. It will mean evaluating and improving recruitment and promotion practices. It will also require mentoring and support at all levels of a business, along with a strong network to support career development at all stages. 

 At Procurement Australia, we are standing up for greater diversity in our industry. One of our long-term strategic goals is to help nurture outstanding female talent in our industry. To do this authentically, we are encouraging more connection between female procurement specialists nationwide through our recently relaunched networking program, Let’s Network. 


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