CIPS: Does procurement lack opportunities for women?

Sara Jones, Procurement and Social Value Manager at Ambition North Wales believes there is a lack of opportunity for women in the procurement industry

While the number of women in procurement is slowly on the rise, with 40% of the functions positions in Europe and the US filled by women, other regions such as Asia still lack a more balanced representation with only 17% of roles filled by women. 

Sara Jones, Procurement and Social Value Manager at Ambition North Wales, believes that across the board, more can be done. “I believe there are so few women in procurement because of the lack of opportunities to enter the sector and understanding of a procurement industry in general,” she said. 

She added: “Before I joined a career in procurement, I had no idea what it meant. On paper, it looked so monotonous, process-driven and not something I would even consider, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Procurement is one of the most exciting and interesting areas I’ve ever worked in.”

But how easy is it for women to get into procurement?

Historically, there are many stereotypes in procurement, in 2019, 45% of CPOs said that three main views were widespread in their organisation:

  1. Rationality is considered largely a masculine trait
  2. Risk-taking and decision making is a masculine strength
  3. Activities requiring interpersonal skills are feminine

Coupled with hard negotiations and long hours, procurement roles are often considered ‘not suitable for women’. As such these perceptions can create barriers for women seeking to apply for roles in this field. 

Jones’ comments on her own progression in the industry echo this:  “Getting into procurement, was difficult. Historically there were many stereotypes that a procurement role was not suitable for women.”

She added: “This perception often creates a barrier which prevents women from applying for such roles, and or being successful in obtaining them. Although this isn’t the case for me, I am aware of some women in the field whose salary is less than their male counterparts.

“Many women want to have a long-term career in procurement and with the ever-changing scenery, innovation, regulation and social value it’s a way to constantly self-develop and learn and procurement is a career that offers this opportunity to develop and learn constantly as well as share skills and experience.”

Jones highlighted the many skills that women have that make them suitable for a role in procurement such as creative thinking, communication, and collaboration.

“Traditionally procurement was seen as compliance enforcement, whereas now it’s much more of a partnership between stakeholders,” she said.

For any organisation looking to increase their women workforce in procurement, Jones advises that they be transparent when it comes to salary, and ensure that employees are educated on equitably on opportunities within their organisation.

Read our latest feature from Procurement Magazine: Is anything changing on diversity, equity, and inclusion?

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