All posts by Laura Ross

Punished For Parenting – The Most Expensive “Time-Off” You’ll Ever Take

Ah, the joys of parenting! If you’ve got children, you’ll know that it’s pretty damn difficult, and costly, to return to the workplace post-parental leave – as if you needed that extra stress! What should your organisation be doing to ease your transition? 

You’re coming to the end of nine months (give or take) parental leave  and my guess is that you’ve never felt less “in the zone”.  You’re sleeping an average of four hours a night, haven’t had a shower in three days, can’t remember the last time you had a conversation about something other than nappies, Peppa Pig or puréed carrots and you’ve got 2157 emails, and counting, in your inbox.

Returning to work after having children is tough for numerous reasons; leaving your child(ren) in someone else’s care (and paying a hefty fee for the privilege), negotiating flexible working conditions, re-adapting to work and taking a sizeable pay cut to name but a few.

The true cost of maternity leave

It won’t come as a surprise that women are the most economically punished in this scenario.

A recent UK study by PwC, entitled “The £1 billion career break penalty for professional women” revealed that women returning to the workplace post-parental leave are losing out on an average of £4000 anually.

Numerous reports have considered the hours worked (around 100 p/w) by stay-at-home mums and calculated their deserved salaries  (in excess of £100,000) but we aren’t living in a dream world. Most women, in some capacity, have to return to the real world and they sure as heck aren’t earning what they deserve or filling the roles that reflect their experience and skillset. Indeed, PwC’s report suggest that two-thirds of women are working below their potential when they return to work and one in five are moving into lower-paid roles.

The stigma associated with CV gaps and a lack of workplace flexibility in many organisations are both contributing factors to these concerning statistics, but there is some hope! By fully utilising the female-returner workforce, the UK could add £1.7 billion to its economy.  And a number of organisations are recognising this and taking promising steps to implement programmes that make the transition back to work seamless and accommodating for working parents.

Here are a few examples:

1. Offer mid-career returnships

Think you might be too old for an internship? What about a returnship? Returnships, open to men and women, are a growing trend in UK businesses, aimed at helping those who have taken extended career breaks by updating skills and easing people’s fear about big CV gaps and a lacking or out of date skillset.

Women Returners explain that “Returnships are higher-level internships which act as a bridge back to senior roles for experienced professionals who have taken an extended career break. They are professionally-paid short-term employment contracts, typically of 3-6 months, with a strong possibility of an ongoing role at the end of the programme.”

And the benefits are two-fold with the employer benefitting as much as the employee. They gain access to a high calibre diverse talent pool and are given a low risk opportunity to assess a potential employee’s suitability for a permanent role.

Companies in the UK who currently offer returnship programmes include PwC, Deloitte, 02, Mastercard and Virgin Money. You can take a look at the full list of companies offering returnships and what these programmes entail here. 

2. Let the dads parent too!

The easiest way to prevent parental leave destroying careers for women is to level the playing field for all genders.

The concept of paternity leave is still a fairly new one. Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce paid parental leave just forty years ago and, whilst more than half of EU countries have followed suit since then, the uptake is still low.  Men are reluctant to take their full entitlement of paid leave because of the cultural stigma attached. Most companies and countries offer far less leave for men than women and it sends a message: “Men don’t really need parental leave.” Fear of judgement, lost career opportunities and lack of role models all contribute to the lack of uptake.

When men and women are offered, and start claiming, paid parental leave in equal measure, it becomes everyone’s problem to find better ways of accommodating this leave within businesses- and that’s when change happens!

Some of the trailblazing companies include Netfix, whose parental leave policy allows parents up to a year of flexible paid leave, Amazon, who launched “Leave Share,” allowing Amazon employees to share their paid leave with their partners and Spotify, who offer six month full pay to all parents.

3. Build a creche

Flexible working is crucial for parents upon their return from a career break. Employees who are offered flexible work options such as being able to work from home, and at hours that suit them could be the difference between a parent returning to a senior role and having to take a more junior position, for which they are overqualified. What does it matter if one of your top employees leaves at 3pm each day to collect their children if they’re willing to work late into the evening to get the job done?

We talk a lot on Procurious about better assimilating family life with the workplace and whether it’s becoming more acceptable to bring your children to work. A number of companies are better providing for their employee parents with on-site childcare facilities. Goldman Sachs, for example, opened London’s first on-site creche in 2003.  It currently offers staff four weeks free care to ease the transition back to work from parental leave.

In the U.S. a third of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for provide on-site child care.

How To Play The Hand You’re Dealt In The Age Of Uncertainty

Poker: It’s a game filled with excitement and risk. But just how far does it correlate with the uncertainty of our everyday lives?

Last month, Procurious attended eWorld Procurement and Supply where we were  lucky enough to experience a thought provoking talk from Caspar Berry on risk-taking and decision-making in the age of uncertainty.

Whatever our political leanings, we can all agree that unpredictable occurrences are happening everywhere in today’s world.  2016 saw Brexit and the election of president Trump; two events many  had thought impossible. There’s the refugee crisis in the Middle East, the continued prevalence of ISIS and upcoming elections in France and Germany; the results of which could determine the future of the EU.

Caspar Berry, professional poker player and poker advisor on Casino Royale, knows exactly what it means to take risks and admits that it can be dangerous, scary or disruptive. But, we need  risk, whether it’s in our personal or professional lives.

Have you ever considered what it is that makes sport so compelling? We’re gripped by the uncertainty. We have no idea what’s going to happen or who’s going to score and that adds a level of excitement and interest. But of course in professional sport, as is the case with poker, we’re not the ones who have to take the leap. We can leave all of that reckless risk-taking to the professionals… or can we?

Everyday Risk

Caspar pointed out that the average person would love to believe their everyday life has a level of  risk-free stability and  consistency. Whilst we might marvel at the bravery of prevalent risk takers in the casino or on the sports pitch, we’d much prefer to avoid a life of uncertainty.

In actual fact, there a number of parallels to  draw between poker and real life. The future is far more uncertain than we would choose to acknowledge.

In poker, the cards are randomly shuffled making it utterly impossible to predict what’s coming.  Our everyday lives are much the same. We can’t be sure when something will change the course of the future, whether it be a large scale political event, an encounter with a new person or a medical diagnosis.

The Butterfly Affect

The phenomenon whereby a minute localised change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Originating from the notion in chaos theory that a butterfly fluttering in Rio de Janeiro could change the weather in Chicago.

Every single moment of every single day people are doing things somewhere in the world which could change your life.  If any one of your ancestors hadn’t been around, you wouldn’t be either.  If one tiny interaction hadn’t happened hundreds of years ago, history  might look very different indeed. These examples are just two of the billions of butterflies that are interacting with each-other; impacting events across the globe.

When so much is out of our control, it’s natural that we would try to limit uncertainty. We set laws and implement criminal justice systems so we have a vague knowledge of how people are going to behave. We buy branded clothing and eat in chain restaurants because it’s reassuring to know exactly what we’re going to get for our money. We’ll happily pay a premium for these things because it lowers the associated risks.

When we come across people or institutions that seem to know what’s going on, whether it’s a religious group, a futurist or a bank, we want to believe them. And so we do.

Philip Tetlock and The Good Judgment Project

Philip Tetlock, Canadian-American political science writer, began an extensive 20-year study in 1984 on future judgements.

He questioned 284 world experts on their future predictions and requested that each prediction be awarded a likelihood of occurrence. The study is widely considered one of the most robust in the history of social sciences with approximately 2800 answers obtained. And what did those answers show?

As Caspar put it, you  would have gotten the exact same results by asking an eight-year-old to randomly throw darts at predictions. In fact, the strongest correlation in the survey results was between successful predictions and the confidence of the person predicting, but a negative correlation!

Why  were the least confident participants correct? As Caspar explained, these are the people who are both humble and intelligent enough to embrace the concept of uncertainty.

How to manage risk and face uncertainty head on

In our organisations we know, for the most part, that taking risks won’t result in someone getting hurt. But it could mean something going very wrong for the business. So, how do you know when its worth taking a risk and how can we become more confident to do so?

  1. Be competent at assessing risk

We’ll never be able to predict exactly what’s coming our way. But  we can get better at deciding when to take a chance. In business, evaluate what the chance of success is, what’s the return on a gamble. If you’re faced with a 25 per cent chance of success and an amazing ROI, it’s worth taking that risk. Sometimes it will pay off.

2. Immunise yourself to loss

When it comes to risk-taking you will fail and you will lose out, perhaps more often that not. Caspar cited Abraham Lincoln as an icon who endured multiple short term failures, moments of rejection and losses. But he went on to great success.  We can all do better at immunising ourselves to loss,  let downs and failure.

3. Embrace risk taking

Casper asserted that if someone is cocky at poker, they’re possibly a bit insane. It takes a level of caution and the acceptance that there is always risk involved. But risky people have something to teach us, we can learn from them and embrace the uncertainty ahead.

Be Bold For Change On International Women’s Day 2017

Did you know that 80% of presenters at Procurement conferences are male? How can this possibly help promote female leadership in the profession? If you’re looking for a rallying place to #BeBoldForChange on International Women’s Day, Procurious has launched Bravo! to celebrate and motivate women working within procurement.

Join the Bravo! group and take part in the discussion today!

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8th March each year. The first ever Women’s Day event of this kind was observed in the US in 1909. Since then, people from around the world have united to celebrate, empower and motivate women with the ultimate aim of achieving gender equality and fair recognition for women’s achievements.

The day’s success is due, in part, to its lack of affiliation to any one particular group or authority. Rather, the day sees the bringing together of individuals, organisations, charities governments and corporations with a common cause.

 What can you expect from this year’s International Women’s Day? It all depends on where you are in the world and what takes your fancy. In some places, women are striking; in others they are holding conferences, festivals and exhibitions. You can guarantee they’ll be protests, concerts, special cinema screenings, comedy shows, online digital gatherings and award ceremonies aplenty. Certain countries, namely Armenia, China, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine and Zambia, even recognise International Women’s Day as an official holiday. Can’t wait for that to catch on elsewhere!

You can find out about everything that’s going on near you via the official IWD website.

Get involved with Bravo! on Procurious

 Procurious launched the Bravo! campaign last year in support of all women working within procurement. Our experiences with the global procurement community highlighted the gender disparity which still exists within the function. The talent pipeline might be full to bursting with superstar women at entry – mid level. But, at leadership level, that same pipeline is overwhelmingly stocked with men. In an article published on Procurious, recruitment expert Jennifer Swain commented:

“We need to get more women into procurement and logistics.  We need to raise awareness to young talent at college or university as to what an amazing career in procurement and supply chain can be.  If more females take entry level roles, it stands to reason that there will be more females climbing the career ladder.  Secondly, equalling out the gender ratios can only help eradicate any sexism still lingering in the industry.”

When we investigated the facts we discovered that in the majority of procurement associations, women account for 20-35 per cent of memberships. At procurement conferences, they represent 30 per cent of attendees and just 20 per cent of speakers.

Penny Rush, Program Manager for Diversity and Inclusion at PwC Australia, recommends that advocates for gender equality equip themselves with the facts. “It’s important to have the latest figures at hand to help us celebrate the gains we’ve made towards gender equality, but also to highlight the distance we still have to go”, she said. “For example, an Ipsos poll on attitudes to gender equality released yesterday revealed that one in five Australians believe men are ‘more capable’ than women, and eight in 10 women believe gender inequality still exists.”

Bravo! seeks to challenge and rectify this inequality by promoting strong and inspiring women in procurement and tackling issues such as diversity, inclusion and workplace sexism.

We’d love to hear your plans for IWD. How are you getting involved? What do you believe are the benefits of an event such as this? Have you, or your procurement team, been bold for change and, if so, what have you done? Let us know in the discussion board on Procurious or via the Bravo! group.

The origins of International Women’s Day

In 1909 the Socialist Party of America rallied to commemorate the 1908 New York garment workers strike, which saw 10,000 take to the streets to campaign. They protested for equal pay, shorter hours and better working conditions.

Throughout the years, the event has taken on many forms and been gradually adopted by different countries whether its to protest against war, set gender equality targets or fight for women’s education.

IWD has been celebrated on the 8th March since 1913 but was only officially recognised by the United Nations in 1975. Since then, each year has had a specific theme.

Of course, cultures and attitudes towards women have drastically changed, for the better, since the early 1900s. It wouldn’t be a women’s equality event without the usual cries of “But do we really need a women’s day? Aren’t things pretty much equal now anyway and, besides, there’s no international men’s day?”

Firstly, there actually is an international men’s day.

And secondly, things aren’t pretty much equal just yet. The original aims of IOW are yet to be achieved. Statistics show that:

Be Bold For Change

The theme, and official hashtag, for this year’s event is #BeBoldForChange :

“Whether it’s organising your own event or making a pledge to speak out about equality, we can each play our part in creating a fairer world. If you joined the Women’s Marches on 21 January, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, to protest prejudice, misogyny and racism, you’ll know that powerful feeling of taking action. Being bold for change means continuing that work and not staying silent.”

 In short, being bold for change means standing up for women, standing up for inequality and challenging sexism whenever, and wherever, you can. Every single person can make a world of difference by calling out discriminatory behaviour when they see it happen, in their personal or professional lives.

If you haven’t quite managed to keep up with all of Procurious’ Bravo! content, you’ll find some of the highlights below:

Join the women in procurement conversation via our Bravo group. 

Who Run the World? Women in Procurement!

The talent pipeline is bursting with superstar women at entry – mid level. Why then, is that same pipeline so overwhelmingly stocked with men at the leadership level? In the words of Beyonce – Who run the world? Girls!

Bravo! Celebrating and Connecting Women in Procurement – get involved here.

If you work for a large, multinational organisation, a quick scan of the office might have you believe gender disparity in the workplace is a thing of the past, but it’s time to think again!

  • Almost four in ten businesses in G7 countries have no women in senior management positions.

Now let’s take look at the Procurement stats. According to research conducted by John Everett, EMEA Business Service Group Director at Dow Chemical and CIPS-Switzerland Branch Chairperson, in the majority of procurement associations, women account for 20-35 per cent of memberships and at procurement conferences, they represent 30 per cent of attendees and just 20 per cent of speakers.

Why is This So Important?

I’d forgive you at this point for thinking that the outlook sounds pretty bleak, but all is not lost!

The good news? The lack of diversity throughout organisations affects everybody, men and women alike. It’s statistically proven that employees achieve more when they can be themselves, and also that diverse organisations are more likely to outperform (35 per cent more likely, to be exact).

  • Diverse and inclusive teams decrease the turnover within organisations. When employees are happy and face no discrimination, they’re more likely to stick around.
  • The best people won’t want to work for a company with a track record of gender inequality or discrimination. An organisation’s reputation in regards to diversity is important to prospective employees.
  • If the employees within your organisation aren’t a true representation of your customer and stakeholder base, you can’t possibly act with everyone’s interests in mind.
  • Everyone brings different skills and talents to the table. You’re certainly narrowing your business horizons if everyone at the top is the same gender, race, age and sexuality.

If we unleashed all of the latent power of women out there, we could unlock almost £10 trillion of additional global economic output. And so, it’s in everyone’s interests to help improve diversity and inclusion.

What is Bravo?

At Procurious, we want to make it easier for women to get into, stay in, and thrive in the procurement profession. This is why we are launching Bravo – a Procurious Group celebrating and promoting women in Procurement.

“Procurement is a pathway to the CEO’s office. So I hope that increasing participation of women in procurement leadership roles, will ultimately lead to a brighter future for female business leaders.” says Tania Seary, founder of Procurious.

“We want all our members – women and men alike – to unite and tackle diversity barriers head-on, shining a spotlight on the career success factors that will allow women to thrive at all levels.”

Women in Procurement at ProcureCon

Just last week at ProcureCon IT Amsterdam,  there was a great example of the power of women connecting and sharing.

Hosted by Claire Tapping, Head of IT Purchasing Rolls-Royce, the ‘Women in Procurement’ breakfast bought together 20 inspiring women to share their experiences, observations and reflections on what it’s like to be a woman in the procurement profession.

There was a general consensus among the group that diversity within procurement has noticeably improved in recent years. The attendees were particularly heartened to see so many females at an IT/Tech conference, an industry where women are typically underrepresented.

But there’s still a long way to go. Several people noted the need to change attitudes towards women and the vocabulary used to describe them in the workplace.

Female managers are often referred to as being “bitchy” or “bossy” or condemned for having a strong personality. Men, on the other hand, might be deemed as authoritative or passionate for expressing the same character traits.

Challenging these perceptions, and calling out discriminatory attitudes, will go a long way to ensuring women are respected at work and promoted into leadership positions.

Women CAN Have it All!

It was fascinating to listen to accounts from women of different ethnicities working all around the globe. Experiences vary dramatically, particularly when it comes to balancing work and family life.

In Switzerland, for example, working mothers are not readily accommodated. Childcare costs are exceptionally high and there is little government support. As one delegate commented, “Switzerland has the most highly educated housewives.”

By contrast, Iceland ranks top in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index, and has done for the past six years. Almost 80 per cent of Icelandic women work. They represent, thanks to quotas, almost 50 per cent of board members (versus 23.2 per cent in the UK). Who’s coming with me?

Many of the ProcureCon delegates could relate to the struggles of being a working mother. In many countries, it’s harder for men to work part time, or to receive paternity leave.

Women have been made to feel that they shouldn’t take on senior positions if they’re planning on starting a family. Conversely, in accepting a new senior role, some have felt as though they should put their family plans on hold.

Laws need to be adapted and organisations must work towards accommodating working parents, both men and women. Everyone should have the opportunity to choose how they manage their families.

What’s to Come?

Short of us all moving to Iceland next year, the best we can do is work to make a change wherever we are and however we can. And there’s always strength in numbers.

Most of the women present at ProcureCon work for organisations where there is an organisation-wide women’s network, but nothing specific for procurement pros.

We want Bravo to help fill this gap, making it easier for us to communicate, share ideas, mentor and be energised to do more!

As part of Bravo, we’ll speaking with a number of high profile procurement leaders about their own advice to young women starting off in Procurement, and how they’re helping females get ahead.

Join the discussion on Procurious and help put this issue to rest once and for all.