Procurement Leaders

Women in Procurement in Brussels: Diversity of thought

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It is difficult to deny that gender diversity in the workplace, particularly when it comes to the most senior level positions, is vastly unbalanced. LeanIn.Org and McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2016 study found that by the time women reach a senior vice president level, they hold just 20% of line roles, and line roles are those that lead more directly to the C-suite. While this study focused on the US, Procurement Leaders’ Salary Survey 2016 uncovered a similar pattern of disparity within global procurement teams, with just 14% of CPOs being women.


While the evidence may point one way the question remains what is happening to change it?


As Procurement Leaders’ Women in Procurement initiative continues to evolve, procurement executives from across Europe came together in Brussels to share insights, ideas and experiences of promoting diversity in the function.


Procurement Leaders COO Nandini Basuthakur and UCB Biopharma CPO Paula Martinez co-hosted the event at UCB’s headquarters.


The workshop began with Basuthakur saying that today there was “less and less diversity of thought in the discussions that really matter,” and a key way to drive diversity of thought comes from diversity of gender. There was resounding agreement with this from the 35 procurement professionals in the room.


But, attendees said that at entry- and mid-level roles, diversity in the broader sense of the word was beginning to prevail.


How was that being achieved? At UCB Biopharma, Martinez said that her procurement function makes a conscious effort to hire trainees from a diverse background, whether this be gender, nationality or so on.


A development analyst in the global purchasing department at UCB explained how she started out on the UCB training programme, which included 50 trainees from 11 different countries.


It is hoped that by driving diversity within junior levels will filter upwards through the organisation as emerging talent progresses through the ranks.


At Vodafone, diversity is one of the organisation’s guiding principles and a constant theme in management meetings.


Principal category manager Marie-Agnes Magalhaes said a mindset and culture shift at the telecoms giant was the main driver to embracing diversity.


The discussion turned to identifying the barriers that prevent gender diversity reaching the more senior ranks and one thing that many noted was the attitude that people have. A recurring point was that women are often overly concerned with obstacles and consequences of an action, especially when taken out of their comfort zone.


The advice for women: be more forceful and stop striving for absolute perfection.


For leaders of functions the advice was to remember that creating a truly diverse team takes time.


UCB’s training programme was said to be 80% female. However, it is understood that it will take time for this talent to move up to senior positions.


Businesses and teams are taking steps in the right direction and we hope the Women in Procurement initiative will help diversity along the way.


This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.

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