Category Archives: Women in Procurement

Why Sexual Harassment Training Doesn’t Work (And What We Can Do About It)

There is no evidence that most anti-sexual harassment training actually prevents sexual harassment so how can workplaces stop it?

By Tero Vesalainen/ Shutterstock

About half of all working women report being sexual harassed at work at some point during their working lives.  This is true whether the statistics come from the UK, the US or Europe. Figures like this are underlined by the continuous flow of allegations brought to light as a result of the #metoo movement. 

The question for many workplaces is how to stop it.  For many, the answer is sexual harassment training.  In 2017, for example when two female lawmakers testified about sexual misconduct involving unnamed sitting members of Congress, the House implemented a requirement that all members of staff undergo anti-sexual harassment training.  Even more recently, the US State of California enacted a law to expand employers’ sexual harassment training requirements. Previously, employers with 50 or more employees had to provide their supervisory personnel with two hours of sexual harassment prevention training every two years. The new law dropped the number to any firm having five or more employees and requiring even non-supervisors to receive training.  And it is now common for government agencies, universities and other employers to implement similar policies, with over 90 per cent of US employers having some form of training in place.

Many organisations are now taking a pre-emptive approach to sexual harassment.  When, and not if, the inevitable claim happens they want to be able to point to actions they have taken to prevent it.  The only problem is that no evidence that most anti-sexual harassment training actually prevents sexual harassment or that it makes an employer any less liable for harassment claims by employees.

Comprehensive reviews of typical training programs suggest that under test conditions, men with a propensity to harass may be less likely to inappropriately touch a colleague, but the training does not affect their long term attitudes at all.  According to the researchers there is “absolutely no scientific basis for concluding that harassment training fosters employee tolerance and greatly alters workplace culture.” They also caution that there is a risk that the existence of training sends the erroneous message that the workplace is a harassment-free environment, when it is likely to be nothing of the sort.

The problem lies in the nature of the training according to a recent study conducted by Assistant Professor Elizabeth Tippett from the University of Oregon School of Law.  She analyzed 74 current and historical training programs spanning a period for 1980 to 2016. Her research suggested that harassment training solidified into a genre in the 1980s and 1990s.  It became a box ticking exercise (usually) consisting of a video based on an authority figure summarizing the law and then acting out a set of scenarios focusing largely on contrived situations rather than using real data applicable to the employer delivering the training.  Tippett notes, “a substantial portion of examples trainers use, involving sexual comments, jokes, and emails, represent borderline conduct that may not constitute harassment. Trainers do not always provide an explanation of whether the conduct would qualify as harassment, which may lead participants to infer that such conduct would be strictly prohibited.”  

The result is training which is either ignored because it portrays behavior which isn’t harassment or, results in workplaces which become hypersensitive to the point that productivity is impaired because people are scared of interacting with women at all.

Researchers have suggested a number of ways of improving the effectiveness of anti-harassment training borrowed from research into school-based anti-bullying programs.  One of the most effective of those programs is the one designed by 87-year-old Swedish professor of psychology, Dan Olweus, one of the clear leaders in bullying research. His program is designed to curtail any behavior that results from the power imbalance rather than focusing on any given expression of it. In short his program says set rules, stick to them, monitor compliance vigilantly and punish any violation consistently. Importantly, the entire community must cooperate in reducing the behaviour. A common feature of effective anti-bullying programs is ensuring that the community reacts against bullying. If the bully thinks bullying will make them an outcast, they’ll be much less likely to bully. If the bully’s peers react by reporting the behaviour or intervening on behalf of the victim, the bullying will decrease.

Like other bullies, harassers thrive in environments where supervision is minimal and rules are loosely enforced or non-existent. And just as with bullies, cooperation and community values are the most powerful weapons of containment. None of this will stop a harasser from wanting to harass, but it will severely curtail their opportunities to do so, and likely make it a career ending choice.

All of this depends on top-down buy in from the leaders of an organization.  They have to walk the walk, set the tone and make sure it is enforced without fear or favour. They need to do much more than tick the box and press play on the 1980’s sexual harassment training video.

All too often, group think and anxiety about imaginary consequences shuts down complaints before they are even made. If we want to stop abusive behavior in in the workplace, then we need to ensure our HR departments and all our other whistleblowers are protected and emboldened. When abuse is occurring we need to protect those who speak out, not shame them into staying with the herd.

Women In Procurement? You Better Believe It

At Procurious we want women in procurement across the globe, and from every walk of life, to be the best that they can be and reach the highest of career heights. But to dream big it’s important to have some leading lights showing you the way…

By Rawpixel.com/ Shutterstock

It’s hard to dream big and aim high without a little leading light to show you the way. Sadly, at procurement conferences women make up just 20 per cent of presenters, they represent 20-35 per cent of procurement association memberships and earn up to 31 per cent less than their male counterparts.  

And so, on this International Women’s Day, we want to show the procurement world all of the amazing things women are doing and achieving for the profession, to inspire you to do it too! 

For the past week, we’ve been running a visibility campaign – encouraging women working in procurement across the globe to share photos of themselves in order to inspire the next generation of talented women.

Check out some of the amazing contributions below and get involved here.

Bill Gorman, Portfolio Lead – Procurement and Supply Chain – Accenture and her team in Brisbane

Why is visibility important?

Visibility for women in procurement is important as we are still fighting an undertone that strong leadership can only come from men, which is absolutely not true.

There is a cultural bias that is engrained in our society’s fabric that women themselves often subscribe to – visibility for women in procurement is not external, it’s internal. The journey for true equality starts when we acknowledge ourselves.

Abby Vige, Procurement Manager – Ministry of Education of New Zealand

We might be very confident in life, but it is always easier when we see examples proving that things are achievable. Hence the importance of sharing success stories of women in Procurement to motivate women to embrace a career in this exciting, dynamic and rewarding profession.  As an African European woman working in Western Europe, for me it is even more important that black women can be inspired and encouraged to join the profession. environment. #Representation matters!

Joelle Payom,  Global Strategic Sourcing & Vendor Management Lead

Increasing the number of women in key roles increases the availability of role models. It increases identification with leadership roles and helps grow future supply. A diversity of role models expands the leadership profile, and boosts innovation.


Achieving a critical mass of 35 per cent or more women enables:


– Supportive alliances to form between women, increasing their retention
– Recognition of women for their individual talents, rather than for stereotypical attributes 
– Improved dynamics and culture of the larger leadership cohort

Karen Morley, Director -Karen Morley & Associates
Tania Seary, Founder – Procurious

Joelle Payom,  Global Strategic Sourcing & Vendor Management Lead

What motivates you to be a role model?

I like to share experiences, tools and tactics that help navigate the human experience. There is a lot of emphasis on technical skills and workplace experience but there is little insight from leadership about how they got to the place they are in now, often it’s soft skills and learnings around resilience and adaptability that lands our leaders in these roles. I like to remain open to anyone starting out in their career, pulling back the curtain and being honest about work life balance, coping mechanisms for pressure, priorisation skills and having tough conversations

Abby Vige, Procurement Manager – Ministry of Education of New Zealand
Coretta Bessi, Head of Procurement – Ausgrid

How can organisations help female employees careers’ progress more rapidly?

Starting by promoting more women at Top Management level. That’s the most powerful sign that an organization is not only embracing diversity but also fostering effective inclusion. If it happens at Top Level, it is easier to cascade down. #Lead by example!

Joelle Payom,  Global Strategic Sourcing & Vendor Management Lead
Carina Hoogeveen, Senior Director, Marketing EMEA – Icertis

Cathryn Vann, Head of Procurement – Accsys Group

Sally Lansburt, Rhylee Nowell and Pip McGregor – The Faculty

Helen Macken, Director
– Vladcat Enterprises Limited

Claire Costello Senior Director, GBS Indirect Procurement Solutions- Sourcing – Walmart and Kirsty Middlemiss Senior Manager, Procurement, Asda

Get involved with International Women’s Day 2019 

On this International Women’s Day, we’re campaigning to improve the visibility of women in procurement and supply chain management. We want to showcase some of the amazing things women are achieving for the professions and inspire you to do it too! 


1.Sign up to join the Bravo group on Procurious
2. Download your very own you can’t be what you can’t see poster from the documents tab in the group
3. Print out the poster and snap a shot of yourself 
4. Share the photo via the Bravo group on Procurious 
5. Share the photo on Twitter, tagging @Procurious_ and #IWD2019 #BravoWomen and LinkedIn. In your post, nominate a woman in procurement who inspires you and ask her to take part too! 

How To Be Visible, Feel Authentic And Advance Your Career

You can’t be what you can’t see has become a catch cry for the lack of visibility of women in leadership roles.

It’s a bit of a Catch-22. To be prepared to be visible, to feel authentic and to advance your career is so much easier when you can follow women who’ve already blazed the trail. It’s so much easier to follow a path that someone has created than to forge your own. And what a hard slog if everyone is doing that!

To make your own path easier, find role models that you can emulate, help others find role models that they can follow, and this will increase your opportunity to be visible.

You can’t be what you can’t see

You can’t be what you can’t see has become a catch cry for the lack of visibility of women in leadership roles.

When there are no female role models, women’s belief in their suitability for leadership reduces. ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ The unavailability of female role models constrains the choices women make about their careers.

This has a significant impact on available talent. Girls are discouraged from pursuing careers that seem ‘male’.  Women do not choose to pursue career opportunities in male-dominated areas. 

This also limits organisations’ talent pools and pipelines. It compromises long-term future talent supplies across industries. It is strikingly evident in male-dominated professions, like engineering.

For International Women’s Day 2019, Procurious are running a new campaign to improve the visibility of inspiring women working in procurement and supply chain. Get involved here.

Why role models are so critical

Implicit self-beliefs are not simply private thoughts that remain confined to the mind. Rather, they impact intentions and goals. They encourage, or hinder, future professional success.

At entry to tertiary studies, and again at exit, young women agree that women-as-a-group are as suited to leadership roles as men. They express their own personal ambition to be leaders.

However, their unconscious beliefs about women as leaders, and their own leadership potential, do change. Without the right kind of interactions with role models, young women’s implicit self-beliefs diminish.

When all or most of their professors are male, their unconscious self-beliefs erode. They come to believe that women are better suited for support roles.

When women directly engage with successful female professors their unconscious self-beliefs improve. Frequent contact helps the association ‘woman = leader’ strengthen. However, only when contact is evaluated as meaningful do self-beliefs change: ‘I can be a leader’.  A sense of similarity with role models is created by a meaningful, quality connection. Women’s leadership ambitions increase significantly when they engage with such role models.

This same pattern continues as women engage in the workforce. Women are less likely to pursue leadership roles or roles in masculine domains.

Young women are unaware of their implicit beliefs

They believe that the way they see themselves and their career choices are down to their own motivation, talent and interests. Instead, context powerfully drives their choices.

A senior leader described her daughter’s reduced ambition as like the erosion caused by acid rain. She started her career as a confident, ambitious young woman. She was clear about who she was and what she wanted. Over time, she had given up career goals and her dreams of success. A drop at a time, and devastating over time, her interest in her career was being eroded. She was shaping herself in line with expectations about what women should be like at work. Not confident. Not ambitious.

The ingredients that best predict improvement in implicit leadership self-beliefs are:

  • Knowing that other women have achieved success in leadership or male-dominated domains, together with
  • The experience of personally connecting with those women.

Who are your role models? Fabulous, successful female leaders that you would aspire to be like. If you don’t have three or four that you see personally, or feel strongly connected to, get to work and find them!

Leverage the role model effect

Increasing the number of women in key roles increases the availability of role models. It increases identification with leadership roles and helps grow future supply. A diversity of role models expands the leadership profile, and boosts innovation.

Achieving a critical mass of 35% or more women enables:

  • Supportive alliances to form between women, increasing their retention;
  • Recognition of women for their individual talents, rather than for stereotypical attributes; and
  • Improved dynamics and culture of the larger leadership cohort.

The mere presence of women in small or ‘token’ numbers is not enough. It has been assumed that an initial appointment of one woman would lead to a flow of female appointments.  Instead, hiring more women often stalls. A 20 year study of US Fortune 1000 companies found that hiring one top female executive did not lead to a second.

To achieve a critical mass of women in leadership, hiring patterns need to shift. A powerful way for that to happen is by male leaders advocating for gender-balanced leadership.

If you are in the hiring game, make sure that you are removing all the bias you can from your process, including at the initial stage – make sure your work climate is inclusive and welcoming.

Harness the power of male advocacy

CEO advocacy is the primary driver of a rapid achievement of critical mass. Advocating pro-diversity views promotes acceptance of diversity and helps to realise its benefits. Advocacy by influential figures is persuasive. It can change unconscious attitudes. As CEOs and senior leaders are mostly men, their role as advocates is key.

The best ways that men can champion gender equality are by:

  • Being credible, trustworthy supporters of gender-balanced leadership,
  • Delivering clear messages about gender balance and their commitment to it,
  • Using persuasive power to change the minds of peers, and
  • Working collegiately with women.

The way in which senior men include women, model openness to difference and challenge exclusionary behaviour by others creates a new example and new model for behaviour. Who are the senior men that you can encourage to be more visible in their advocacy?

Because it is still uncommon to hear men advocate in this way, when they do, it stimulates a mental double take. It challenges unconscious thinking.

Engaging senior men as advocates is also a positive way to tap into their desire to look good to others. The male champions of change program does this very effectively.

How many male advocates do you have in your network? What might you do to nurture one more? Maybe you are a male advocate for inclusion and innovation? What can you do to persuade those around you to join you as an advocate?

Reset visibility

Align yourself with this year’s IWD theme of #balanceforbetter. Time for a reset in our thinking. Let’s work on both women’s visibility as leaders, and on men’s visibility as champions for balanced leadership. You can’t be what you can’t see will be an even more powerful catch cry when used to encourage men to add their voices as advocates. Make advocacy visible!

Be visible, feel authentic and advance your career

Set your sights on making it to a senior level role, or help those around you to do so. Increase your confidence in your own leadership identity, by identifying specific role models. Role models help increase feelings of self-efficacy in leadership, the development of your identity as a leader, and increase your positive feelings about being a leader.

Creating a strong, confident story-line that is congruent with your own values, and having a presence that holds attention, are critical to succeeding in leadership roles, and work on these will help you to advance your career.

Get involved with International Women’s Day 2019

At Procurious we want women in procurement and supply chain management across the globe, and from every walk of life, to be the best that they can be and reach the highest of career heights.

But it’s hard to dream big and aim high without a little leading light to show you the way.

Cathryn Vann, Head of Procurement – Accsys Group with Procurious’ Holly Nicholson

That’s why, on this International Women’s Day, we’re campaigning to improve the visibility of women in procurement and supply chain management. We want to showcase some of the amazing things women are achieving for the professions and inspire you to do it too! 

1.Sign up to join the Bravo group on Procurious
2. Download your very own you can’t be what you can’t see poster from the documents tab in the group
3. Print out the poster and snap a shot of yourself 
4. Share the photo via the Bravo group on Procurious 
5. Share the photo on Twitter, tagging @Procurious_ and #IWD2019 #BravoWomen and LinkedIn. In your post, nominate a woman in procurement who inspires you and ask her to take part too! 

Thanks Gillette. Why Men Should Aim To Be The Best They Can Be

The recent Gillette ad caused a massive response for a 1:47 minute film. Is it the close shave we had to have, or one that’s just too close for comfort?

The ad actively highlights the importance of rejecting toxic behaviour, showing men intervening when others are harassed or bullied, and helping to protect children from the same behaviour. Promoting civility, care and protection can’t be bad. Can it?

Alignment with the #metoo movement may be enough to raise the red flag to some. But even, so, just why is the ad’s message so controversial? Gillette’s strapline change from ‘the best a man can get’ to ‘the best a man can be’ seems nothing short of genius. Why is it not universally inspiring?

Unfortunately, diversity initiatives are now well known to backfire and cause backlash. Any attempt to change people’s attitudes and beliefs will almost certainly do this. The history of Civil Rights in the US is an unfortunately good example.

Whether this initiative does or doesn’t result in unintended negative consequences for Gillette, there are lessons that can be learned from the response. At the heart of the contention is the portrayal of the toxicity of hyper-masculine cultures.  

The key characteristics of a toxic masculine culture are:

  • Show no weakness – don’t admit you don’t know, don’t express doubt;
  • Show strength and stamina – stronger, longer, and bigger are better;
  • Put work first – work hard, don’t let family interfere;
  • ‘Dog eat dog’ – watch your back, you’re in or out.

These characteristics are traditionally associated with men’s work, and with leadership. They are prevalent in many industries and occupations, not just dangerous or physical strength-related ones, such as the military or emergency services. They also characterise engineering, construction, and white collar industries like finance, procurement and law. Many mainstream organisations conflate the demonstration of masculine traits with effective performance.

It’s not the characteristics themselves that are the problem. And it isn’t men either.

The problem with these characteristics is when they are the majority characteristics of an organisation’s culture.

An interesting feature of masculinity is that it isn’t ever settled, it always needs to be contested. The problem is not in the behaviour of individual men, but in workplace cultures that reward survival-of-the-fittest and dog-eat-dog competitiveness.

The expectations are neither inevitable nor are they universal. The nature of teams, the structure of work and the core tasks associated with specific occupations all moderate how cultures form and are experienced in male-dominated occupations. For example, where firefighting crews were encouraged to express camaraderie and work with good humour, they were much less likely to engage in high risk behaviour. They were faster to coordinate, had fewer accidents, and caused less property damage.

In one study of leadership climate, 56 per cent of people considered that the managers they interact with every day displayed toxic leadership to some degree. Masculine contest cultures are less inclusive, and there is a lower level of psychological safety. Higher employee stress, work-life conflict and turnover intentions result. Organisational commitment is low, as is wellbeing. The more toxic the culture, the worse performance becomes over time.

When men who strongly identify with masculine characteristics experience threats to their superiority, they also tend to reduce support for gender equality. If they see programs for gender equality (such as this ad) as a zero-sum game, ie, any gains to be made by women will be losses to them, they withdraw their interest, don’t get involved, or oppose the programs.

Moves towards equal pay, for example, are seen as reducing opportunities for men and placing downward pressure on men’s pay. In a contest culture where men are competing against other men, women’s access into the competition is seen as disrupting the advantage that men have.  Attempts to increase the representation of women will be difficult.

It is when men who identify strongly with masculine characteristics perceive threats to their masculinity that they are more likely to sexually harass others. And they may harass either female or male colleagues.

Where men believe that gender roles are fixed, they tend to rationalise the social system. They are more likely to justify the system and its inequities. On the other hand, where men are primed to see gender roles as socially ascribed, their identification with ‘male’ decreases as does their defence of gender inequities. Their views align more with women’s.

A real part of the problem for change is that working in a masculine culture is associated with greater work engagement and job meaning for some men. Some men find the prospect of winning masculine status so seductive that they will sacrifice their wellbeing for opportunities to be in the contest.

Finally, a major challenge is that those organisations that need training the most are the least likely to benefit from it. Organisations that promote masculinity context cultures won’t change through traditional diversity and sexual harassment training. In such cultures, conventional approaches have not been effective and in some cases have backfired.

Diversity and sexual harassment training is only effective in those organisations that support its purpose and content. When there is misalignment, when training is done to meet external reporting or is tokenistic, training is at best a waste of time.

These issues highlight some of the reasons behind the strong, negative reactions to the Gillette ad.

If you are someone who sees the Gillette ad as a breath of fresh air, and you want to reduce the degree of masculine contest in your culture, keep these three key things in focus:

  • Let people control their own solutions to inequities, by engaging them in the problem, make sure they are volunteers, and use curiosity as a key hook. This makes it rewarding
  • Increase contact and connection between under-represented groups, and ensure they work together as this minimises status differences and focuses on work and learning;
  • Make responsibilities transparent, and make people accountable for their actions, which taps into their desire to look good to others

How To Become A Corporate Superstar Overnight

Bravo! Tania Seary shares her thoughts on gender disparity in procurement, having the courage to  get big ideas through big companies and why procurement is THE career choice if you want to become a corporate superstar overnight!

Kaspars Grinvalds/ Shutterstock

Procurious Founder, Tania Seary, remembers her first day in a procurement role as a game-changing moment in her career.

“I’d had some fantastic jobs in marketing and communications but nothing struck me like that first day I worked in procurement, moving from one side of the table to the other. It was a real rush.”

For Tania, the scope and scale of the function along with the ability to impact so many parts of the business meant that she was sold straight away.

Like so many of procurement’s rising stars, Tania fell into the profession unexpectedly.  Speaking to peers on her MBA course at Penn State, she was fascinated by the number of people who aspired to go into procurement roles. When she questioned their reasons, the answer was always “because you can become a corporate superstar overnight, saving millions of dollars for the organisation.”

In procurement, they told Tania, the CEO and CFO know who you are and you can get promoted quickly. “It sounded like a great idea to an ambitious 30-something … and as I said, once I got to the other side of table I was really hooked.”

On Day 3 of the Bravo podcast series Tania Seary shares her thoughts on gender disparity, getting big ideas through big companies and the importance of having a human touch in procurement.

Getting your big ideas heard

Courage is one of the key attributes required to drive the best ideas forward, along with resilience and the ability to choose your projects wisely. “Getting a big idea though a big company takes a lot of energy and time”, explains Tania.  She shares her top two tips for getting big ideas off the ground:

  1. Do your homework and have a strong business case – You can really build support across your organisation as you’re building your business case, then fall back on those people as your support network when you get challenged at the senior level.
  2. Choose your sponsors wisely – It’s vital to have a corporate sponsor for some of these courageous projects, but make sure they’re not simply picking you to be involved as the flavour of the day. Find someone to help who understands the business benefits of what you’re putting forward and will support you because they believe in the project.

The human touch goes a long way

Tania stresses the importance of procurement professionals behaving like human beings in the workplace. The old-school  workplace attitude demanded that your personality be left at the door. “It’s increasingly important [for your team] to see that you’re a little bit vulnerable, a little bit human and that they can relate to you.”

At Procurious, we’re often questioned on the benefits of having separate social media accounts for personal versus corporate life. But Tania is a firm believer that you should be one person, with the courage to show your genuine self online, and in the office.

Tania believes that being human will be procurement’s competitive advantage in industry 4.0. “My belief is that our role in industry 4.0 will be to orchestrate and collaborate within this complex tech-enabled web of suppliers.  When robots are pointing us in different directions we have to be the ones who step in and reconcile, playing to our strengths.”

Collaboration, innovation and influence are things only humans can do. “That will be the future of procurement; trusted advisors who can solve complex problems.”

The pay gap 

Gender inequality in procurement is an ongoing concern for Tania. “It’s something that needs to be addressed. Looking at the [pay gap] statistics in the UK, US, and Australia is astonishing.” This hard-hitting data has motivated Tania to be a champion of change for women working in procurement. “I’m really going to be encouraging leaders around the world to tackle this head-on and ensure that their teams are paid equally”, she says.

“It’s something that the whole business world struggles with, but procurement can take a firm stand and be one of the first functions to put its hand up and say we’ve achieved this important goal.”

Tania’s short-term dream for the profession? “If we can say – by the end of 2020 – that we’re a very ethical profession that pays employees fairly, that would be a great result.”

In Bravo, our five-part podcast series celebrating women in procurement, five inspiring and courageous women share their stories and the secrets to their success. Sign up to now (it’s free!)

How To Free Your Decisions From Bias

It’s not easy to free yourself and others from decision bias. But the pay off for your organisation is worth it…

A CEO mentioned recently to me his frustration with a few of his Senior Leaders who play the ‘merit card’ whenever diversity is raised. In doing so, they stymie good initiatives. Each small block they construct rebuilds the wall as fast as the CEO and supportive leaders tear it down. ‘What can I do?’ he asked. I shared his pain: invoking the ‘merit card’ is a wicked, if effective, tactic for, paradoxically, subverting merit and keeping control.

The CEO and his leaders have an awareness of unconscious bias and know a bit about how it works. Until recently unconscious bias was heralded as the holy grail for achieving significant improvement in diversity and inclusion outcomes. But the value of unconscious bias training in particular, and diversity training in general, is being challenged.

Dobbin & Kalev’s influential article ‘Why diversity programs fail’ importantly identified that command and control approaches, adopted by many organisations, backfire. You can’t get people to change by telling them to. And you don’t get people to change by blaming them for doing the wrong thing.

Making training about beliefs and preferences mandatory is almost guaranteed to fail. That’s because suppressing unconscious beliefs, to ‘do what’s expected’, is  well-known to make bias more, not less, likely. And that’s the danger with these senior leaders who play the ‘merit card’; their biases may increase rather than decrease.

Unconscious bias awareness is not a silver bullet, it is however, worthwhile. It’s not easy to free yourself and others from decision bias, so what will make it worth the CEO’s effort? You can’t work with it effectively if you don’t understand it. And it’s how you work with it that counts. 

Debias by accepting your fallibility

At an individual level, part of the work is to accept your own fallibility. We are susceptible to many types of bias, that cover all sorts of decisions. Frustratingly, because these biases operate unconsciously, we can’t really know when we are in their grip. And our bias for overconfidence means that we tend to think that our decisions are much better than they are. So, we’re not actually very likely to think we’re biased. It’s bit of a Catch-22.

The most practical approach is to be aware of the tendency towards overconfidence. Be more modest, less certain, about your decisions. Whether or not you know you are biased matters less than accepting that you are likely to be biased.

Leaders who play the ‘merit card’ probably suffer certainty bias, they don’t think they are biased. They don’t like the suggestion they have a ‘weakness’ like ‘bias’. Without that openness, their decisions remain narrow. Feelings of certainty are biases themselves. It’s when we feel most certain that we are most likely to be unsystematic, think we know, circumvent objective methods, or neglect to ask for alternatives.

If you accept that you are likely to be biased you are more likely to act to mitigate against bias. And that, currently, seems to get the best results.

Biases show up in:

  • What we notice
  • What we expect
  • What we ask, and
  • What we value.

What we notice

Collectively, we are getting much better at noticing gender-participation differences by industry and occupation. When we take the time to collect and examine the data about, for example, pay, it transpires that there are often gaps that can only be attributed to gender.  When we notice the difference, we can act on the difference.

At the individual level, what we notice has a big impact on careers.

Letters of recommendation for male academics emphasise research skills, publications and career aspirations, which are the ‘get ahead’ characteristics. Whereas teaching skills, practical clinical skills and personal attributes, the ‘get along’ characteristics, are more often identified for females.

Women scientists’ early career advancement is hindered, even when they have the same qualifications as male scientists. Male and female faculty make biased hiring decisions, preferring male candidates over female. Their capabilities are noticed differently. Male candidates are seen as more competent, more worthy of mentoring and deserving of a higher salary than female candidates.

Notice what you notice

Set yourself a noticing challenge. Pair yourself up with someone of the opposite gender, with whom you will be interacting regularly throughout a designated day. Commit to taking observations during the day. Each half hour, record what you have observed in terms of interpersonal interactions.

At the end of the day, compare your notes with each other.

What do you notice about who takes what kinds of actions, and what is the impact of their actions on others? What’s similar in your observations, and what’s different?

What we expect

We expect men to be ambitious and we don’t expect women to be. This erodes women’s ability to express their ambition. In numerous professions, from policing to medicine and science, women begin with the same levels of ambition as do men. Yet, while men’s ambition increases over time, women’s decreases. Because women are constantly fighting structural barriers, their ambition often wanes.

We expect men to be competent and women supportive. A recent European study reviewed 125 applications for venture capital funding. Forty-seven percent of women’s applications, versus 62% of men’s, were funded. Women applied for and received less funding.

There were four distinct differences in the language used to assess applications:

  • Women were described as needing support, men as assertive.
  • Women were not described as entrepreneurs but as growing a business to escape unemployment. Superlatives were used about men’s fit with entrepreneurship and risk taking.
  • Women’s credibility was questioned, men’s was not.
  • Women were seen to lack competence, experience and knowledge; men to be innovative and impressive.

Expectations about how men and women should behave were carried over into evaluations which then affected their relative success.

Disrupt your expectations

What happens if you disrupt your expectations regarding ambition and competence? What if you spent a day imagining all the women you engage with are ambitious, competent and want to get ahead? Imagine the men with whom you engage want to provide support and take a back seat.

If our Senior Leaders imagined that the men in their teams wanted to leave work to pick up the kids from school and prepare dinner, how would they think about their next career move?

What we ask

The group of researchers involved in the VC funding example above observed the full application process. They concluded that the questions that were asked undermined women’s potential, but underpinned men’s.

A recent US study found a similar kind of bias. In a start-up funding competition, venture capitalists (VCs) were much more likely to ask male entrepreneurs promotion-oriented questions. They focused on ideals, achievements and advancement. By contrast, VCs asked females entrepreneurs prevention-oriented questions. These questions focused on vigilance, responsibility, risk and safety. Male-led start-ups raised five times the funding of females. Consistent with what we know about unconscious bias, the research found that male and female VCs displayed the same questioning biases.  It is often assumed that men favour men and women favour women; increasing the number of women on selection panels is routinely seen as the solution. Yet unconscious biases about gender are held as commonly by women as by men. While simply increasing the number of female decision makers does make balanced decision making more likely, it does not guarantee it. However, when panels have gender balance, or are female only, bias tends to disappear.

Question what you ask

 How might you disrupt the kinds of questions you ask men and women? Do you ask men and women the same questions? What happens when you do?

Imagine our Senior Leaders asked men and women the same questions they ask women. What would they learn?

What we value

Johnson & Johnson, which fields about 1 million job applications for over 25,000 job openings each year, now uses Textio to debias their job ads. When they first started using it they found that their job ads were skewed with masculine language. They were disproportionately valuing male characteristics. Their pilot program to change the language in their ads resulted in a 9% increase in female applicants.

Even when managers and decision-makers espouse a commitment to gender equality and a desire to promote more women into leadership positions, they are prone to evaluate women less positively

By deliberately analysing and structuring how information is conveyed and options are presented, it can become easier to make fairer decisions.

Women are commonly demoted to traditional gender roles. Forty-five percent of women in one study have been asked to make the tea in meetings. Some were CEO at the time. Female doctors are often mistaken for nurses, female lawyers for paralegals and female professionals of many kinds for personal assistants.  We do not expect women to hold senior roles, despite the fact that, increasingly, they do.

Student evaluations of teaching appear to be influenced similarly. Even in an online course where the gender of the instructor was manipulated so that identical experiences were provided to students, those students who believed they had a female teacher provided significantly lower teaching evaluations. While these lower ratings misrepresent actual competency, they nevertheless may create a self-fulfilling prophesy where women’s career advancement choices begin to conform to the stereotype. And erroneous beliefs about women’s competency levels limit the opportunities that are provided to them; the misrepresentations are perpetuated.

Put the value back into evaluation

Debias evaluation by using blind, automated processes. Take human bias and error out, and increase the value of the decisions you are making.

Would our Senior Leaders be prepared to do this? Would they be prepared to take themselves out of the equation? Would they believe an objective merit-based process could occur for a decision in which they have an interest, but in which they were not involved?

Put it all together

People are responsible for their own minds. Our CEO has provided opportunities for his senior leaders to engage with curiosity, respect and candour in their diversity programs. There are some wonderful stories emerging.

The challenge for those who don’t yet get it, is to agree to the overarching purpose that people decisions are based on merit. If merit is what we are aiming for, we should all be prepared to sign-up for practices and tools that increase and uphold it. Will they do this?

But merit is both more and less than it seems. It is more complex and difficult to define than most people think. It is less objective and rigorous, particularly in knowledge work and leadership roles. It is ripe for bias. Paradoxically, invoking merit is perhaps the most powerful way to subvert it.

It’s time for Senior Leaders to throw away the ‘merit card’; their people deserve a fairer hand.

Eroding merit corrodes culture, and culture is where the CEO leaves his biggest legacy. What can he do? To leave a lasting legacy, the CEO knows he needs to call out the fallacy of the ‘merit card’ and hold his Senior Leaders to account for fair people decisions. He can help them to exit the organisation if they are not prepared to play a fair hand.

If the Senior Leaders are prepared to admit to fallibility, to be aware that they may notice and value the behaviours of different groups of people in different ways, there are many practices that will make sure bias is minimised and fairer decisions are made.

We can all keep working to debias our decisions.

What to do if you believe in merit:

  1. Accept your fallibility – be more modest, less certain about your decisions.
  2. Notice what you notice – record what you notice and assess it for fairness.
  3. Disrupt your expectations – imagine women are ambitious and men supportive.
  4. Question what you ask – ask the same questions of everyone.
  5. Put the value back into evaluation – by using blind processes.

#Metoo: Coming To Your Workplace In 2018

#Metoo changed the gender equality landscape dramatically in the space of a few months. Here’s how we can build upon those hard-won gains.

Sundry Photography/Shutterstock.com

#Metoo has shaken the world – and rightly so. That it has taken until 2017 for significant attention to be paid to the harassment and abuse that women have been subjected to by men they know, in workplaces that proclaim their ‘values’, is staggering.

In the U.S., the #metoo movement has raged its way through Hollywood, the music industry, the church, the military, and government. The corporate world won’t escape this tide of transparency. While corporates have historically been under more pressure to stamp out sexual harassment and discrimination, it still occurs and is often poorly handled.

The big myth that organisations ‘protect us from harm’ has been outed. Even in the days when it was acceptable for organisations to be benevolent and protective, they weren’t. The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is a prime example of this. As is #ChurchToo, #MeTooMilitary and #MeTooCongress in the US, the closure of the Presidents Club in the UK, and other responses across the world.

Why has it been so hard to attract a spotlight with sufficient wattage to this issue?

Because women know it’s dangerous to be outspoken on gender equity – you get targeted if you are.

Sustaining a focus on harm, abuse, and violence is exhausting. It’s overwhelming and becomes depowering. We go elsewhere to be replenished, and then lose momentum.

When we see white men persistently holding on to power, and not sharing it, it is unclear what can be done.

And what we now know from the unconscious bias research is that women have the same biases and inconsistencies; it isn’t women versus men, it’s gender-based views about women’s and men’s roles, which is complicated, and confusing.

This year’s International Women’s Day refocuses the #metoo momentum in a positive way. #Pressforprogress provides an optimistic, action-oriented window of opportunity for change. #Pressforprogress calls on us to set up a virtuous cycle instead of staying trapped in this one. To focus on rights, rather than wrongs.

A clear focus on progress will help make progress visible, and make more progress.

What has #metoo achieved?

One of the intentions of the #metoo campaign was to draw attention to the prevalence and unacceptability of sexual harassment. It has done much more than that.

On a personal level, #metoo reminded me of my own small experience of harassment. In my first days as a full-time worker in a large organization I was told by co-workers that my new boss, a middle-aged man, chased female employees around the office on a regular basis. I was staggered by this news. At first, I couldn’t believe it.

Then I saw it happen.

And yes, he did it on a regular basis. Thankfully, I learnt pretty quickly that if you didn’t play the game, that is, run when expected to, he didn’t play either. What a relief! What strikes me as I remember it is that slight frisson of fear ‘What if he catches me?’ So far as I know, he didn’t ever catch anyone, but that isn’t the point. The point is the intimidation and fear that is caused by something projected as a seemingly harmless ‘game’, but which clearly is not.

Ironically, his name was Mr Speed, so perhaps he thought that gave him some kind of license. But his license also came from our collusion in being chased. There’s a kind of helplessness to do anything different even though it’s clear that it’s not OK. More frighteningly, tacit license came from the organisation and its authority figures. His behaviour wasn’t a secret. And it wasn’t sanctioned.

This is minor in comparison with the abuse that many have suffered. I appreciate that I have been lucky – there’s no other way to explain it – to have avoided serious abuse and harassment in my life. And for that I remain extremely thankful.

 What progress has #metoo made?

On a broader level, #metoo:

  1. Saw public, tough consequences for some (admittedly high-profile) abusers;
  2. Opened to scrutiny what had been widely known about, but not subjected to public awareness. It created a sense of transparency and accountability;
  3. Catalyzed men and women into joining the movement against widespread, endemic abuse. We stood up and said publicly that it wasn’t acceptable.

#MeToo has put serious dents in some myths about women (and they still need work):

  • ‘Women don’t enjoy sex’: men who believe this don’t buy ‘no means no’, and expect women to resist;
  • ‘Women are men’s property’ which means that consent doesn’t matter;
  • ‘She must have provoked it’ which means that it’s her fault;
  • ‘She could have just said no’, which means that she said no and I ignored her anyway.

There’s certainly been some collateral damage, and if only it could have been avoided. Victims are traumatised, there are false accusations, not everyone has been called to account, there’s backlash and disagreement about what it means.

It’s time to shift the dialogue, and #pressforprogress makes for good timing. We’ve outed past wrongs. We’ve gone some distance in redressing some wrongs. We’ve challenged myths. Now how do we get better gender equity so that we don’t backslide; so that we keep these gains and build upon them?

A relentless focus on progress will speed the rate of change. We need to see the task ahead as akin to rain falling, collecting and being channelled along the rocks. As it collects and gathers force the runnels go deeper and wider. The flow increases and gathers force. The underlying rock is eroded and the runnel becomes a river that becomes a waterfall. Like water pouring over a waterfall, each drop, each surge of progress, erodes the resistance, deepens the possibilities, and increases the momentum.

How organisations can #pressforprogress:

As a foundation, organisations must provide a safe environment for all workers, and pay particular attention to those who have lower levels of power. They need to ensure there is a zero tolerance policy for harassment, and actively grow a culture founded on respect for others. They must be both deeply committed to safety, and advocate strongly for equality, to create a culture that is true to their words. Nothing else is good enough.

The single most important factor in motivating people to put in effort, is the perception of making progress in meaningful work. When people experience a sense of progress, they are more intrinsically motivated.

 Organisational leaders should ensure that they:

 Notice all progress towards safety and inclusion, no matter how small;

  • Provide structure, resources and help to support diversity and inclusion;
  • Provide emotional support to nourish human connection and belonging.

 And do these things relentlessly.

 What can individuals do?

The best way to use our effort to make progress is to be hyper-aware of even very small signs of progress and draw attention to them.

Notice some signs of progress every single day. Notice even tiny amounts of progress. Share your own. Share other’s stories. Tell progress stories whenever you can. This magnifies motivation to make progress.

While we are not there yet, there have been many gains, and 2017 has increased the momentum for equality. The ability to notice even small amounts of progress reduces the impact of setbacks, boosts positive emotions and engagement, and sustains effort to achieve long-term outcomes.

Progress motivates people to accept difficult challenges more readily and to persist longer.

#Pressforprogress in 2018 by noticing and sharing your progress, and the progress of others.

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? 

Nomad_Soul/Shutterstock.com

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.

Why Being Reliable Spells Doom to Your Career

Do people in your workplace ever refer to you as reliable, trusty, dependable? That’s got to stop! 

Are you a woman working in procurement? Join Bravo, our specialised group on Procurious. 

Truth or myth

Myth: Having a reputation for being “reliable” and “getting the job done” makes you valuable.

Over the weekend I’ve been helping a friend in a sticky situation. She is downsising her business, which is a smart move.

She has the potential to sell her business, which is a lucrative move.

In either case, she has to make layoffs.

Ouch.

As we strategised together on how to deal with this difficult decision, a staffer’s name kept reappearing.

My friend feels indebted to her for all her years of service.

I asked her what value the woman brought to the team. How does her work enhance results, solve problems, and propel the company forward?

Her answer?

“I don’t know…she just always does what I ask and gets the job done.”

Hire or fire?

We discussed this some more and came to the conclusion that despite her loyalty and workhorse ethic, this staffer would not make the cut and has to be let go.

That’s painful. And I see this a lot.

When I ask women what their special sauce is at the office, I hear “I’m known for my work ethic” or “I always do a good job” or “I’m reliable and get the job done”

I get it. I was once that person, too. And it cost me thousands of hours of my life and hundreds of thousands of dollars that I could have been earning.

Dammit!

Being known for getting the job done is not enough to build value and does not get you the pay scale, nor the flexibility you crave.

And what is even harder to see is that, most likely, working hard feels good. And when something feels good it becomes a hard habit to break.

When you realise how much you’re worth, You’ll stop giving people discounts. – Karen Salmansohn 

There is certainly pride in staying at the office late to produce a stellar result. And it’s nice to be the first one the boss reaches for when there’s a difficult task at hand that will require overtime. Who doesn’t want to feel needed?

Yet, when you are the person who is routinely called in to do the tough jobs that require a maximum time commitment, the only person to blame is YOU.

Sorry.

It’s okay to work an 80 every now and then if you’re in your flow and loving what you do.

And it’s great to commit to a special assignment that will open up doors of opportunity.

But it sucks to work that 80 day-in and day-out while telling yourself “it’s only for a year or two until I prove myself”

Don’t hold yourself back

Finding value in how hard you work is a script from your childhood. And if you’ve watched my master class you know what those scripts do. They hold you back. They make you trade hours for dollars. They keep you from your littles. They pull you off course so you can’t be the real, authentic you.

Defining your value and pouring your heart and soul into developing that is priceless. It’s a linchpin in your ability to create the career you really want.

You just need to hone it, sell it, and make sure the whole world knows your secret sauce solves their acute pain. Now you are simply PRICELESS! (But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

And the best part about this is that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be special, you already are special…you just have to find that special spark inside and nurture it. You don’t have to be lucky, you create your own luck by seizing opportunities and taking a stand for what you care about. And you don’t have to be master craftsman. Women always think they don’t have the skills, experience, or blah, blah to do this. Of course you do!

So when are you going to claim the life you really want? If you’re not living it today, then I suggest now  is a good time, right?

Are you a woman working in procurement? Join Bravo, our specialised group on Procurious. 

This article was oringally published on LinkedIn. In 2003, Kathleen Byars  left her lucrative executive career to go live on an island. Today she specialises in helping corporate women redesign their lives and leverage their talent to create fulfilling, flexible careers without sacrificing the success they’ve earned.

Evergreen Wisdom for a Changing Profession

When was the last time you reached out to a Procurement Guru? Although the battleground is changing, those among us with scars have a lot of relevant insights to share.

We knew we’d be in for a treat when we locked in an interview with ISM board member Ann Oka. Ann is the former senior VP of supply management (CPO) for Sodexo, Inc. in North America where she was responsible for a whopping US$5.5 billion spend.

While working, Ann believed in contributing beyond her formal role, and served on the board of trustees for the A.T. Kearney Center for Strategic Supply Leadership at ISM, the board of the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, and was a member of the executive committee of the GS1 Foodservice Initiative.  She retired in June of 2014, and other than the ISM board, now occupies her time with family and leisure.

Of course, she has a wealth of knowledge to draw from thanks to decades of procurement experience but, interestingly, she’s objective about its value to the next generation of procurement professionals. “Some things don’t change over time; motivating and leading people, looking at evolving tech and enlarging the sources of value. But, whilst there might be a lot of insights those of us with scars can give, the battleground is changing.”

The battleground may well be changing but surely that means Ann’s insights, as a seasoned pro, are all the more significant? As such, we were fascinated to learn how she has seen the profession develop over time and what she believes the future holds.

The evolution of procurement

Ann explains how drastically procurement’s role has changed over the years, both in terms of job responsibilities and external perceptions of the profession. “Where people were once identified as buyers or negotiators, they became category managers as the implementation of strategic sourcing evolved. These developments redefined the role of the average procurement person – they became professionals; their strategic impact increased and they had a broader scope.”

It’s a tricky and lengthy transition to lead any team through. “There’s a big task in the up-skilling of your people, particularly when you want to bring as many of them along with you as you can.”

Of course, some things don’t change. “The major evolution of procurement that we’re currently experiencing is comparable, in many ways, to what happened twenty years ago” Ann begins. “It was in the mid-90s when I first realised the importance of systems, technology and data. There was a tremendous amount of data available to procurement and category management, but harnessing it and getting it into the hands of the supply professionals was the challenge.”

What does the future hold?

Ann believes that the most competent procurement professionals will take the onslaught of Artificial Intelligence entirely in their stride. As she puts it, in a message to “The Change Resistant”:

“The train has come to the station. You have the choice of getting on it – and we’ll help you with the ticket – or you can be run over.”

The bottom line, she says, is that “people may well have been successful in the past, but the world is changing and you need to change with it, or it will pass you by.”

As far as procurement roles being totally displaced by AI, Ann is sceptical at best. “I don’t think the advent of new technology really changes a procurement role. Those with an ability to look at the long-term picture will be able to incorporate that into their strategies. Look at how the future is evolving and the possibilities it presents and work out how you’re going to work with the firm and with your supply base to extract the maximum value.”

Permission To Fail, Please!

It’s apparent that Ann rates a good procurement leader as much as, if not more than, someone who’s AI-ready.  “The harder thing for many organisations is having a management team that allows employees room to stretch and fail, that lets them try new things without instilling a fear of repercussions. There is such a thing as a successful failure. People are loath to say a project they’ve run hasn’t worked  out, fearing they will be judged on its success or failure. But occasionally  encountering a failure is a part of the journey to improvement.”

Procurement leaders can effectively work as safety nets for their teams. They should allow enough flexibility but know when to pull the plug to avoid too much fallout.

“I was in my position at Sodexo for 11 years. It allowed us to do things like put in some industry-leading systems, change the way we worked with suppliers, and harvest a culture of continuous improvement. In this time the continuous improvement team came up with several far-fetched ideas and used the leadership  team as a sounding board. It’s useful to invite new ideas and to have an off-the-wall ways of looking at things.”

Of course, not everyone thinks in this way. The key is finding people who have strategic vision. “Leaders should be on the look out for hires who have an intellectual curiosity and the courage to tickle the edges of things that are scary.  Embracing functional diversity is important in achieving this – perhaps your next star will come from legal, or IT, or straight out of college?”

Once a CPO, always a CPO

She might be retired, but its clear to see Ann still lives and breathes procurement. “I have people from past roles who, surprisingly, come back and approach me for our old heart-to-hearts”. She holds­­ board positions and still mentors younger professionals.  Safe to say there’s a spot for her on our board any day!

We concluded the interview with a final piece of advice from Ann; “If you’re a CPO, think about how you best position your company for tomorrow. Keep an eye on emerging technologies and bring the conversation to the table.” In other words, don’t miss the train!­­