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For and To be the women in Supply Chain Management

A changing function

Historically, procurement used to be seen as administrative, process driven, reactive and policy focused – now, procurement is finally being seen as strategic business partners. As the function has changed and evolved, so have the requirements of those working in the space. It’s important now more than ever that procurement professionals have a broad business acumen, both from an understanding and skill perspective. Now, it’s not just qualifications and knowledge, but soft skills such as negotiation and innovation that are key to winning in the procurement sphere. Innovation leads to cost savings if you can find a better way of doing something. An effective procurement or supply chain professional is going to be constantly looking at engaging new suppliers. They’re going to be bringing innovative solutions to the table.”

The key for today’s procurement professionals is open communication and true partnership with suppliers. The onus is on procurement professionals within the organisation to make that shift. It’s about value, and when you look at value you have to consider innovation, quality and diversity. It’s really understanding the needs of your business, the individual needs of your stakeholders, and making sure you’re meeting that need. If you consistently meet or exceed those needs, and deliver value based on their terms and definitions, the business is going to want to keep engaging procurement and supply chain.

Diverse skillsets

When it comes to the procurement function of today, engaging the right professionals means a commitment to diversity who has various commitments to promoting the role of women in procurement. The reality is that there is still a gender gap and we would encourage more women to get into this space, to educate themselves and to be vocal about the value they can add to organisations. Just as with millennials, the industry in general needs to reach out to women and share the benefits and rewards of working in procurement. Women really do have a different perspective on things like negotiation and relationship building. Generally, women are more empathetic and tuned in with others, we’re good listeners, and we’re great at multitasking – these are skills that are highly valued when looking at a supply chain or procurement role.

A key issue is that women are not perceived as ‘powerful’ enough to take on leading procurement roles involving high level negotiations. “It’s really up to women to own their space, be confident in their skills and not let their gender get in the way of them being able to really excel in what they do.

Procurement and supply chain remain a male-dominated profession. So in honor of International Women’s Day, we have a few pieces of career advice for female procurement professionals and potential one to join the tribe:

Speak Up

“Make yourself heard! Don’t be afraid to speak up!” — Wendy L. Tate, associate professor of supply chain management at University of Tennessee

Procurement professionals have heightened awareness about the power of transparency for ensuring a level playing field in the economics of contracting and purchasing. Why do we accept a lack of transparency in talent management practices? Companies win when 100% of the workforce competes on a level playing field. One do not need to hide your femininity. Use your female skills of empathy and emotion to become a leader.

Network and Find Mentors

It’s all about the people. You can have the best ideas in the world, but if people don’t buy into them, nothing will materialize. Schedule time with others in the organization — you need mentors and sponsors that will help you be successful — go out and find them! Build a strong and highly connected network, particularly with other women in the field of supply chain. Share your learnings generously with all the women around you.

Be a Voracious Learner

Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Don’t beat yourself up on your mistakes, but rather use them as learning opportunities. Call everything a draft or a pilot. These two simple words open the door for helping you try new and innovative things. Something doesn’t work? Don’t sweat it — think it was a pilot you were testing!”

Last but Not Least, Work Hard

As someone who has held various supply chain or STEM positions since 1979, I believe there has never been a better time for women in supply chain to excel and be recognized for their achievements. My recommendation is to accept the challenging assignments that others may not want; work diligently toward achieving substantive business results; and effectively communicate these results to demonstrate your contributions to the organization. As a procurement professional, there are plenty of opportunities to bend rules and/or compromise values in order to meet a more favorable result. However, when you consistently operate with integrity in your sourcing process as well as your interactions with suppliers and stakeholders, it becomes a part of your personal brand that lives far beyond that moment. It builds trust in you as a professional and enables greater success. Lastly, keep a positive forward-thinking attitude and approach. Don’t think of your job as your ‘job. Rather, come to work each day with the mindset to not only get your work done but also challenge the status quo and seek a better way to do your job.


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