Have women smashed through the glass ceiling in the last thirty years?
Seeing the many posts regarding International Women’s Day made me think – what is all this fuss about?
We’ve got this sorted, haven’t we?
But then I think back to where my procurement journey began and realise only 30 years ago the world of procurement that I inhabited was vastly different to the one we work in now.
I realise that I was complicit because I just kind of accepted it as ‘the man’s world’ that I had dared to enter.
I started out in February 1987. I remember my first boss in civil engineering saying
“Mandy, you are very good at what you do, but you have two problems, one is that you are young and two is that you are female.”
He went on to tell me that I’d have to work really hard to prove myself in the ‘buying game’.
He had a point.
I remember the crane driver who refused to take a request from me because “he wouldn’t take orders from a woman” (yes, really!). I recall how I was referred to as the ‘lady buyer’ and on a good day was perceived as a ‘bit of a novelty’. I just brushed it off and got on with it, never realising how accepting this would have ramifications for other females in my position or that I would be calling it out in an article years later for the blatant sexual discrimination that it was.
Ten Years Later…
In 1997, ten years later, I remember an appraisal with my then boss at a manufacturing organisation. During the meeting, he spoke about the ‘glass ceiling’ and how I should manage my career aspirations accordingly.
I didn’t even know what the glass ceiling was at that time but I got the gist of what he was saying.
Fifteen Years Later
Fast forward another five years, to 2002, and I’m the only member in a group of all male managers who doesn’t have a company car as part of their employee package.
I grumbled and moaned, but it was only when I pointed out that I was
The only member who didn’t have a company car in that group
That I hoped this wasn’t because I was the only female…
…that the car miraculously materialised!
Twenty-Five Years Later
Ten years later as Regional Procurement Director at TATA Steel (as you can imagine, pretty much a male dominated environment) the words of my first boss echoed in my ears.
I HAD to prove myself. This meant turning up at meetings when my son was sick at home, early starts and late finishes balancing motherhood and a career, whilst trying to build productive relationships with colleagues in the business.
“Finding success” were the words of my Engineering Director colleague when he pointed out that relationships between Procurement and Engineering had never been better.
The Buying Game
While I hope this article shows how far women have come in the “buying game” and how behaviours and attitudes have changed, and that I now personally feel total peer equality with my male counterparts, I would hate for any other women in procurement to feel gender inequality and just brush it off as expected.
I don’t regret my decisions, I did what I thought was right at the time but in this modern age of procurement, it isn’t acceptable – so don’t stand for it.
There is still so much more we can do, for all women in procurement. I would rather be seen as a success and a woman rather than a success because I am a woman.
Even in 2018 this is a rarity, in manufacturing especially. To International Women’s Day and all women in procurement
Cultural diversity – whether it’s racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual – is an increasingly hot topic that shows no signs of slowing down. Let’s examine why diversity in the workplace has gone from a “nice-to-have” to a critical business imperative.
Diversity leads to a higher market share
While communities are becoming increasingly culturally diverse, businesses need to mimic the communities they serve by bringing together individuals from different backgrounds and experiences. Put simply, people want to engage with companies that employ people similar to them. This enables companies to capture a greater share of the market by marketing more genuinely to diverse communities, communicating effectively with their diverse customers, and understanding their needs.
Looking for proof of the above? Research from McKinsey revealed that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have above-average financial returns, while companies in the bottom quartile were less likely to achieve above-average results.
Diversity supercharges problem-solving
Institute for Supply Management CEO Tom Derry told Procurious that cultural inclusiveness is no longer an idea, but an expectation. “Your team needs to be diverse – in fact, you’ll look impoverished if you don’t have that. The benefits include being able to tap into a diversity of experience and opinion to solve challenges. This creates a truly attractive environment for top talent.”
If you lived in a dystopic Brave New World scenario where every member of your workforce had identical cultural backgrounds, education and work experience, it’s highly likely that each individual would come up with an identical set of solutions when presented with a problem. That’s why it’s imperative that any group includes people with culturally diverse backgrounds and highly varied work experience who can bring entirely different schools of thought to the table, and hence a wide variety of innovative solutions.
Diversity in the workplace helps you become a more effective global professional
Supply management professionals are increasingly working within the global supply chain, which is why being about to communicate effectively in different parts of the world is a must-have skillset. Having high cultural intelligence (CQ) means knowing how to create relationships, understand cultural nuances and adapt your approach to suit cultural differences in foreign countries.
Shelley Stewart, CPO and VP, DuPont, told Procurious that “A diverse workplace provides a wealth of varied experiences that are crucial for supply management organisations to operate even more effectively in the global economy.”
How? Because an inclusive and diverse business will increase the empathy (and CQ) of all employees as cultural tunnel-vision is reduced. In short, everyone benefits from a higher appreciation of different outlooks and an increased understanding of others. Armed with these skills, a supply management professional is much less likely to suffer culture shock or put a foot wrong when interacting internationally.
Diversity will help you attract and retain the best talent
If your company has built a solid reputation as an organisation with a truly diverse and vibrant workforce, it will attract the very best and brightest in the market. Companies that fail to recognise this are missing out on top talent, as potential candidates may have the perception that your company simply doesn’t tend to hire people from their cultural background. To state the obvious, companies should be making every effort to widen, rather than shrink, the talent pool.
There’s evidence that businesses which fail to foster inclusive, diverse workforces suffer from higher turnover rates, as a hostile work environment forces employees to leave. High turnover leads to avoidable costs, which is another reason why cultural diversity positively impacts your organisation’s bottom line.
Business Leaders are tired of hearing about the “D” word. Tired of hearing about diversity initiatives, forums, unconscious bias training, statistics. We get it; leaders are probably tired because all of the hype is on the problem.
As D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) Practitioners we are tired also of the “fluffy” responses to inclusion that are labelled as solutions. We’ve all participated in some of the fluff: Cultural Diversity Week, Harmony Day, International Women’s Day, Gay Pride Marches, coin collections for paralympians!
The reality is that by and large Australian businesses already have diverse workforces. Walk into most workplaces, and you will see some form of workforce diversity: age, gender, physical ability, sexuality, culture, thought. Although these staff members are “celebrated” with seasonal activities like Harmony Day, we are just not including these diversities where and when it counts in business.
Australian leaders who hold the power are not from diverse groups
There is no real business motivation to drive inclusion
There is a lack of know-how on launching and driving sustainable change to move the needle on inclusion.
AUSTRALIAN LEADERS & DIVERSE TEAM MEMBERS: “Feeling like an onlooker at work”
Inclusion can’t happen if we continue to have a distance in structure and relatability between Australian leaders and diverse team members. Figure 1 shows the distance in structure – Australian businesses are still run by Anglo-Celtic men who may have little relatability to people from diverse backgrounds.
Figure 1: Australia’s Anglo Celtic Men still hold the power
How do people from diverse backgrounds feel? It is ‘feeling like an onlooker at work, or more like an invisible spectator than part of a team’. This is the experience of ‘otherness’, or exclusion in the workplace, that might be subtle but is pervasive (Research by Catalyst).
My experiences … have made me far more aware of my “Blackness” than ever before. I have found that … no matter how liberal and open-minded some [people] try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor … as if I really don’t belong. – Michelle Obama
The impact of exclusion can affect everything from morale to career advancement. Diverse individuals report being more likely to withdraw from full participation and contribution (engagement) to the business. At a business level, this typically means lowered productivity or at the very least, less discretionary effort. The problem is Anglo-Celtic male leaders may not even be aware that this is happening.
How do we get the attention of Anglo-Celtic male business leaders?
Unfortunately, we will get their attention mostly with business statistics that link to financials. So here are some compelling statistics:
Gender diverse and ethnically diverse companies return 15% and 35% better financial performance than their competitors.
Sounds like a no brainer to get motivated to do something, right? However, Australia has got to have the diversity represented first and in the right senior roles. At present, every diversity category you pick is under-represented and our lagging shows on a world-stage, especially with women: Australia is only at 14th place worldwide for women on large, publicly listed companies; and 17th place for women in parliament. Once we improve this, then we can talk about leveraging inclusion to get Fig. 2’s financial success stories.
Figure 2: Diversity Matters
3 steps to cut the fluff and make inclusion matter
Do we wait to get representation first and then work at inclusion? No, start now – here is how: If you are at the top, the middle or indeed in any leadership role, here are three steps tocut the fluff on inclusion:
Understand the diversities you are dealing with (MBWA)
Listening to the unique experiences of diverse employees (MBWA: management by walking around) and adopting inclusive behaviours will reap immediate benefits for your employees and your business. Do not fall into the trap of forming a view about the current state by using data based on outdated personal experience, assumptions and anecdotes or by talking a merit approach.
Translate the potential business impact of continuing exclusion
For example, if you continue to have low levels of women or CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) women represented across your organisation, what does that mean for your reach with customers (51% of Australia’s population are women and we are one of the most multicultural nations in the world). Do you know how your engagement scores translate across diverse groups? Are your staff feeling like onlookers and are these hidden within a 70+ average engagement score?
Commit to act with transparency and accountability
At a senior level, engage the right stakeholder to develop policy, set targets and then make the right leaders accountable for communicating and embedding the policy and the targets into the organisational operating rhythm. All other levels: start with simple acts of inclusion: don’t talk over someone, learn to pronounce someone’s name, encourage an opinion and be open to listening fully – basically invite an onlooker in and keep the door open.
So, cut the fluffy celebrations, events and festivals – instead, take some concrete steps to make inclusion happen on an organisational and individual level, in ways that allow people to be valued and encourage others to step up.
This article was written by Div Pillay & Michelle Redfern, Co-founders of Culturally Diverse Women.
Join us LIVE at The Big Ideas Summit Melbourne to discuss the big-ticket trends affecting procurement – grab a ticket here to secure your seat!
Scores of women struggle to be their most authentic selves at work without the fear of negatively impacting their careers. How can you be your fabulous self in the workplace and still succeed!
Join the women in procurement conversation in the Procurious Bravo group.
I moderate forums quite regularly for women that focus on the themes of vulnerability, building business acumen and authentic leadership. There is a consistent theme in the conversations I have before, during and after these forums. Frustration and exasperation that women are not advancing quickly enough into leadership.
The structural, system level reasons are well documented, however women tell me:
I want to advance, but encounter barriers and exclusion due to implicit bias
I am perceived to lack the confidence that men typically do in the workplace
I want to show up authentically, confidently and courageously, but do not believe I will be rewarded for ‘being me’
Why do women feel like they cannot be authentic?
One answer is the issue of likeability. There is a catalogue of articles about the ‘Heidi/Howard’ story cited by Sheryl Sandberg in her seminal work, Lean In. Heidi who is an authentic female entrepreneur and go-getter, successful, wealthy, powerful and respected. Her success story, profile and achievements are reviewed by a group of students from NYU. Then her name is changed to Howard and the same group of students review her/his accomplishments. The students rate Heidi/Howard the same for competence, however Howard was rated as more likeable and someone that the students would prefer to work with.
Heidi is ‘selfish and not the type of person you would want to hire or work for.’
It feels true, doesn’t it? It also feels awful and contributes to the exasperation and frustration that women feel. However, there is hope. Andersen Cooper from CNN recently reran the experiment with a group of students. This time around, students rated the female entrepreneur as more likeable and desirable as a boss than the male. Hooray! But why?
Because in the 10 years since the original study, we have seen more women ascend to positions of power
Women’s participation rates in the workforce are at their highest rate ever
However, the societal expectations of how ‘nice girls’ behave and as a result, the challenge of being an authentic leader, female or male, are not shifting quickly enough.
To put a completely gendered lens to this issue; I asked women;
Can I really be me and still advance at work?
Is my authentic feminine leadership style valued the same way as traditional male leadership styles?
Disappointingly, many women say no to both questions. Women are waiting for the right environment to advance to be truly authentic feminine leaders. I say wait no longer!
We expect a lot from women
We want them to lead, manage, coordinate and juggle life, leadership and career. Often this results in women prioritising their career last in a long to do list. I want women to invest time and effort in themselves, their development and their fulfilment because I know, from my own experience, that understanding myself, my skills and how to use them effectively has positioned and propelled me into doing what I love and what the world needs. More women in leadership!
Get the career advice you need
In her Ted Talk watched over 3 million times, Susan Colantuono says get the career advice you need, not what you’ve always received! Here is some good advice;
Traditional training, development & advice will get you to the middle, not the top
Embrace your identity as a leader
Identify and act to close your leadership gaps
Identify and act to build your leadership muscle
If you want to lose weight, get fit and be healthy, then you would identify and act, wouldn’t you? You might get a gym membership, start eating healthy or engage a personal trainer to help keep you committed, focussed and accountable.
Why not use the same formula for your career?
Lose weight:lose the incomplete career advice, lose the lack of confidence.
Get fit:practice self-awareness & business skills exercises and build authentic leadership muscles
Be healthy: discover your purpose, your vision and values then build a career advancement plan
These are logical steps but require commitment, discipline, support and expertise. That’s why I want women to think of me as their career personal trainer. I have designed a 6-step program to build the career muscles that matter for women.
Advancing Women workshops are designed to build the EQ (Emotional Quotient) IQ (Intellectual Quotient) and SQ (Social Quotient) muscles of the current and next generation of female leaders in Australia.
Advancing Women programs are not designed to ‘fix’ women, they are designed to provide the strategies, tools and the practical actions to women who are serious about advancing their prospects. The learning content is balanced to ensure that women aren’t over-committing and perfecting skills, attributes and traits they are already comfortable with and competent at. All of which result in women advancing, on their own terms!
Too scared to talk about workplace diversity and inclusion? Dominic Price will happily go first as he debunks the 5 most common myths about underrepresentation.
As a 6-foot-4-inch straight white guy in tech, it might seem unusual that I’m writing about diversity and inclusion. The reason is,more of us need to: write about it, talk about it, and, especially, do something about it.
Just looking at the nightly news in recent weeks, or a new report that underscores the gaps between how tech workers view diversity within their companies and the realities of the situation, it’s apparent how crucial it is to speak out on issues of equality. Speaking up can feel uncomfortable (and heck, by writing this I know I’m making myself a target for criticism), but it’s no longer an option for those of us in groups who hold the most power to stay silent.
My colleagues rightly point out that as a white guy, I’ve got quite a bit of privilege in my industry, and there’s lots of good use for it. So, here’s my boldest attempt yet to make my privilege work for everyone. Specifically, I want to clear up some major misconceptions I hear from others, and predominantly from people who look like me.
Our position of privilege means we are the most removed from the hardships others face and we need to proactively reject the myths we hear.
Myth #1: “Why should we give women and minorities a leg up? Isn’t that unfairly prioritising one group over another?”
Standard words from a fish that doesn’t know it’s in water. It’s much easier to blame others’ misfortunes on lack of intelligence or hard work than on a lack of equal opportunities. This is a protectionist strategy by the strong and wealthy to reduce the power and potential of the perceived weak. For all of the talk about being “data-driven,” many seem to believe that everyone has an equal chance to be in the workplace, despite loads of evidence to the contrary. While it would be nice to think we are all treated equally, simply being a minority can mean being treated differently by others and having fewer social and economic opportunities.
Our position of privilege means we are the most removed from the hardships others in our industry face and need to proactively reject the myths we hear.
Advocating for increased diversity in our industry doesn’t mean people from marginalised groups want an unfair advantage or hand-outs. They just want the same opportunities that others have had.
Myth #2: “You have to be a minority to be involved in diversity & inclusion (D&I).”
A wonderful way to pass the buck. The prevalence of underrepresented minorities talking about a lack of opportunities is because they feel the pain every day and are intrinsically more motivated to make it right. Just because we’re not personally guilty of creating the unequal playing field does not mean we’re not personally responsible for helping to fixing it. When your child spills milk, do you say “not my mess”? Our predecessors helped tilt the playing field, and now it’s our turn to level it out. The sooner we realise we contributed to this problem, (even if only passively through lack of action) the quicker we move from rhetoric to making a difference.
Just because we’re not personally guilty of creating the unequal playing field does not mean we’re not personally responsible for helping to fixing it.
There are plenty of ways to get involved: From merely drawing attention to biased behaviours you see, to getting involved in your company’s existing diversity efforts, or starting your own.
Myth #3: “We just don’t have a diverse applicant pool.”
Ah, yes. A favourite of many, especially in Silicon Valley where recruiting is particularly tough — for example by 2020, there will be nearly 1.5 million unfilled computer science roles. But have you asked yourself why you don’t have a diverse pool? Are you hiring your grads from the same tiny set of schools with very homogeneous student populations? Have you searched for underrepresented candidates, or created programs to bring more into the fold? What have you changed to attract and support them? While the talent pipeline is a common excuse, in truth discrimination, implicit and explicit, constantly blocks underrepresented minorities from entering or advancing in the field; two-thirds of predominantly white and Asian women in STEM report having to constantly prove themselves in the workplace, with black women facing even more extreme biases and challenges.
It’s also worth examining your recruiting tactics to see if you’re doing anything that could be discouraging underrepresented candidates. From gendered language in job descriptions to playing up the office pool table versus paid parental leave on your careers page, you can inadvertently send the wrong message without realising it.
Myth #4: “This is political correctness gone mad.”
Political correctness is a real thing, but it’s also irrelevant to what we’re discussing here. Can efforts to promote diversity be merely political correctness when there’s a mountain of evidence pointing to it being a real problem? Many studies also show diversity has huge benefits when it comes to business and team performance, so it’s something we should all care about.
It’s true that diversity conversations can be very nuanced, which creates fear about saying the wrong thing. But there is a pretty simple fix, which is to ask questions. Listen to and believe the stories from people from backgrounds different from yours. Educate yourself. In the same way you’d tackle a new project or product feature, gather as much information as possible so you can make better, more informed decisions. This isn’t about stifling your voice, but creating room for everyone to express themselves in a way that helps us all do our best work.
Myth #5. “I don’t see gender or race” or “I treat everyone the same.”
This is straight up empirically false. Your brain sees gender, it sees race and it sees just about every other visible category imaginable, whether you consciously pay attention to it or not. Let me say it again: It is neuroscientifically impossible for you to not see attributes like race and gender, and to keep them from affecting your decision-making. I used to think treating everyone the same was what I should strive for, but it turns out that doing so actually results in discrimination and unequal opportunity. Treating everyone the same, even when they’ve faced vastly different challenges, only serves to keep them on a tilted playing field.
Embracing and supporting diversity is something we’re all responsible for and something that, by definition, we are all a part of (a single person can’t be diverse, so diversity includes white guys like me). To move forward, we need to take the crazy myths we’ve told ourselves that attempt to justify the status quo and throw them out the door. Guys like me have benefited from this mess of inequality more than any other group, so it’s our job to actively share opportunities. We’ll all win, as a team.
With what’s happening in the world, it’s important to keep an open heart and an open mind. The choice is yours. You can either become an active part of the solution or a stoic part of the issue in need of solving. Which one sounds more exciting?
Dominic West is Head of R&D and Work Futurist at Atlassin. This article was originally published on Collective Hub.
A lack of understanding about neurodiversity has meant those with a neurodiverse profile have historically endured stigmatisation and struggled in the workplace. John Floyd explains why, and how, this is changing and what we can do to accommodate and embrace differences.
Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!
This week, we’re revisiting an article about people with neureodiverse profiles, and the unique assets they can bring to your procurement organisation.
We know the best performing teams are made up of a diverse group of people, whether that be gender, age, ethnicity or educational background. And Headmaster of Bruern Abbey, John Floyd, has just thrown “neurodiversity “ onto the list of must-have employee profiles, to help strengthen and enhance team output.
Recently rated by Tatler as one of the best Prep Schools in the UK, Bruern Abbey specialises in educating boys with dyslexia and dyspraxia. It is the only preparatory school of its kind in the UK and John Floyd is its outstanding headmaster.
John is a firm believer that learning difficulties, or learning differences, should not preclude academic success. In fact, after developing the right learning strategies at Bruern, many of the boys from go on to some of the best senior schools in the country.
Unfortunately, not everyone with dyslexia or dyspraxia is lucky enough to go to Bruern Abbey. Education systems around the world aren’t necessarily set up to accommodate those with neurodiverse profiles such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. Of course, this extends to the workplace as well.
It is estimated that:
5-10 per cent of the population has dyslexia,
5-10 per cent of the population has dyspraxia
5-7 per cent of the population has ADHD
1 per cent of the population has autism
People with neuro-diverse profiles (and there’s a lot of them!) learn differently, think differently and apply their skills in alternate ways. As John succinctly puts it, “The term neurodiversity means that someone has a brain a little bit different to the majority of people”
Turning their differences into a virtue is a great opportunity for any team leader.
Diversity wins out
Organisations are starting to realise that employing people with neurodiverse profiles and optimizing their approach to work is great for business.
A few examples include:
MI5’s sister service GCHQ (the Government Communications Headquarters) employs more than 300 employees with neuro-diverse profiles and are actively recruiting more.
Organisations such as Microsoft and EY are trialing programs to recruit individuals with neuro-diverse profiles such as Asperger’s.
Employers recognise that employees with neurodiverse profiles might offer heightened analytical skills, lateral thinking and a more naturally investigatory mindset than their peers.
How do you manage neurodiversity in your teams?
Everyone in your team will have different strengths and weaknesses. The opportunity for you, as a leader, is to optimize every member of your team to allow them to reach their peak performance. The key is to determine who has which strengths and to tailor the opportunities and development to suit that individual.
If you’re expecting a prospective employee’s CV to land on your desk with a neurodiverse label plastered across it, think again!
As John pointed out today, “If you start to see some badly written emails from a team member, you’ll know you shouldn’t assign them to write the press releases. But there will be a whole host of things they can do for you, and probably do better than anyone else!”
John gave a few examples of areas in which those with neurodiverse profiles might particularly excel.
Get them to do the interviewing
Dyslexics often have highly developed and fine-tuned listening and oral skills. They are the most studied of all neurodiverse profiles.
Compensating for having potentially struggled with reading and writing throughout childhood, many of them develop excellent verbal and listening skills.They are likely to be a resilient bunch and great under time pressure. Dyslexics have learnt how to work well under stress. having been up against it ever since they were first asked to do school-work.
It could be worth relying upon them to conduct interviews with prospective employees. They might be the most socially engaging person on your team and the most capable at listening to, and evaluating, a candidate.
Let them solve the problems
Adults with dyslexia and Dyspraxia quite literally think differently and are good at cracking codes or seeing patterns in problems that those who read with ease would overlook. They’re also great at re-inventing, re-evaluating and thinking laterally.
Give them the time-sensitive or juggling tasks
A number of adults with forms of neurodiversity such as ADHD can deal with juggling a number of tasks at high speed. It’s what they do all day anyway. For most of us it would be exhausting! They might come up with too many ideas and try to execute them too quickly but they’ll never run out of steam and they’ll be utterly committed.
John concluded his talk today by urging us not to hesitate in employing somebody with a neurodiverse profile. They’ll be grateful to be employed, they’ll be your most resilient team members and they’ll work diligently.
You can guarantee that they’ll be thinking differently about something long before you’ve even entertained the thought that there could even be an alternate option.
Women in leadership: Have you ever had to “behave like a man” to get ahead in the workplace? As part of the Bravo campaign, Procurious will be hearing from a number of high-profile procurement leaders on the topics of diversity, equality and women in procurement.
This week, Procurious caught up with M.L. Peck, Chief Content & Engagement Officer at the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), who is concerned that even in the modern workplace, many women still feel they have to behave like a man to succeed.
She’s the man
Remember Twelfth Night? Shakespeare’s comedy featured a shipwrecked woman (Viola) who disguises herself as her lost twin brother (Sebastian) to find work in the service of Duke Orsino. If you’re not a Shakespeare fan, you may have seen the 2006 adaptation She’s The Man (starring Amanda Bynes), where teenager Viola Hastings disguises herself as a boy in order to play on the all-male soccer team. Both Violas have to learn how to behave like a man, with their accidental lapses into femininity providing many of the plot’s gags.
“Women shouldn’t have to change who they are in order to be taken seriously. Nobody should”, says M.L. “What we absolutely don’t want is to create a mold of how to be strong leader. Our differences are what make us an asset to the teams we work in.
“I’ve had the fortune to work with women who brought an inherent, feminine ability to collaborate, empathise, multitask and problem-solve to their teams. These qualities are often overlooked and under-represented in the workplace, where we expect our leaders to be hierarchical and dictatorial in approach. In procurement, particularly, collaboration is key. The characteristics attributed to women are the ones that all of our future leaders will need – you can bet that millennials and generation Z won’t want to work in a male-dominated environment.”
But what does “behaving like a man” actually mean? Stereotypical male qualities might include strength, dominance, bullish confidence and as little display of emotion as possible. M.L. comments that when women find themselves in a male-dominated workplace, “We can make the mistake of trying to behave like a man by adopting the characteristics typically associated with men.”
Workplaces still have a long way to come in accepting that people, and leaders in particular, are able to display emotion. Men and women are taught that leaders must be “strong”, which means emotions such as compassion and empathy are redundant. “We’ve still got some of these issues in 2017”, says M.L. “Men who show empathy are thought of as weak, while empathetic women get labeled as emotional. If you choose to lead a team without resorting to an authoritarian style, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to add enormous value in your own way”.
This, in a nutshell, is the power of diversity in our organisations. Building a diverse team of people from different genders, backgrounds and experiences will add new perspectives and insights, which ultimately leads to a better decision-making process.
Working twice as hard to be thought of as half as good
M.L. remembers her mother’s experience in the workplace, citing her as one of her inspirations. “My mum was a pipefitter and really lived in a man’s world. She was the first female on the refinery fire-fighting team. I was raised with my mum’s understanding that women needed to work twice as hard to be thought of as half as good.
“In this scenario, it’s easy to feel victimised; to think ‘I’m different, and people are perceiving me that way’. This makes it all the more tempting to conform to certain workplace behaviours, but my mum always retained her own identity.”
3 ways to encourage more women into procurement leadership roles
Providing access to female role models and mentors will help organisations attract and retain women from entry-level through to senior positions. Organisations that want to attract top female talent need to have a diverse and inspiring leadership team.
Shout about what you’re doing to address gender disparity in the workplace. Companies that hold special events for women or minority groups really do see a difference – events give people an opportunity to build their networks, and provide direct access to the C-Suite who make the important decisions about diversity and inclusion.
Get involved with the Bravo campaign via our Women in Procurement group. Join M.L. Peck and other members of the ISM Leadership team at ISM2017.
Karen Morley realised very early on in her career that her workplace experience would be somewhat different from her male counterparts. Drawing on her wealth of knowledge she offers three key pieces of advice to procurement rising stars.
Quite early in my career, it became clear that my overarching purpose was to help leaders realise their full potential (although I may not have articulated it quite as clearly as this at the time!). I have a huge and on-going curiosity about people and their motivations. I became a psychologist to explore that further, and my studies and professional identification fed my purpose.
Levelling The Playing Field
As a young woman starting out my professional life, and with an ambition to succeed and achieve well, I was a keen observer of who in my organisation was given the best opportunities and who was promoted, and it didn’t take long for me to conclude that there wasn’t a level playing field for equally talented men and women. This was a big surprise to me and it was disappointing to know that equality efforts still had a long way to go.
And so my purpose has developed over time to include my passion for ensuring women are provided equal opportunity to grow and succeed, and for working with organisations to promote strategies that increase gender balance, and diversity and inclusion in general. To any procurement rising stars, I offer three key pieces of advice:
Rising Stars: What got you here won’t get you there
This phrase, which comes from Marshall Goldsmith, is a very powerful one. Continuing to do more of what you’re good at is seductive, but limiting, at least if you want to keep rising. And not all organisations are good at making this clear to their newer leaders.
While we know that new roles and increased seniority require new skills and perspectives, I also speak with the leaders I coach about what they need to give up. You need to give up a lot of what you have been recognised for and been good at, once you’re managing a team.
Create strong foundations that will serve your entire career
Notwithstanding that you need take on and give up certain skills and perspectives as your career grows, there are a couple of related foundation skills for leaders that help regardless of the size and shape of your job. I think these are some of the toughest things to manage, but worth it in terms of the payback:
Manage your attention – disciplined attention is the currency of leadership. To be successful you need to pay attention to the things that matter most, and sustain your attention on those things in the midst of many distractions.
At increasingly senior levels this intensifies and focusing strategically and productively becomes ever more challenging. How to zone out the minutiae of everyday demands and keep attention on the big picture? You’ve got to be a bit ruthless with your attention and give up any need you might have to be all things to all people, or to be the one who has the right answers. Instead, prioritise what matters most and excel at it.
Manage your perspective – being able to manage your attention helps you to manage your perspective taking. And managing your perspective taking helps with important things like enabling others to do their work, and managing complexity.
The only effective way of dealing with complexity is being able to take different perspectives. Instead of managing for certainty, we need to lead for possibility. That can be challenging, and anxiety-provoking, in organisations where the drive is towards certainty. Seeking out the perspectives of people who are different from us, irritate us, or who stretch us beyond our comfort zones, can unlock enormous creativity and power. What questions do/would they ask? Build them into your repertoire to develop greater flexibility in your thinking.
Know your story, and tell it well
How do you want the world to know you, and to understand the leader you are becoming? Spending time crafting your storylines is of critical importance firstly in gaining your own clarity: what’s your leadership purpose, your values and motivations to lead? How readily and clearly can you articulate these?
When you’re growing and developing, your stories may become a little confused, and some of them are changing. You may need to discard some, and find new ones. Working out how to articulate them clearly can help you gain clarity on what they are. Win:win!
I find that women in particular may be reluctant to tell their stories; I often hear ‘I don’t think I have anything interesting to say’. But everyone does. And a story should only take 60 to 90 seconds to tell.
No-one else will be clear about what you stand for if you’re not. Your stories serve to prime you for success. As you tell your stories people come to better connect with you, understand the authentic you, and appreciate your intentions. Help them to see you as the leader you want to be known as.
My Top Tips On Reducing Gender Disparity
To be successful in shifting the representation of women in senior roles and start to nurture those rising stars, it’s important to nail these four things:,
Sincerely champion the value of women in senior leadership, and publicly commit to change; Giam Swiegers, Global CEO of Aurecon, is a wonderful example of this
Develop an inclusive culture and supporting practices, including promoting inclusion as an organisational ideal, promoting inclusive practices such as flexible working for everyone, and changing hiring and promotional practices to make them merit-based
Collect the right data, make it transparent and hold managers to account; Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and Lara Poloni, CEO AECOM A&NZ are outstanding examples of organisations that transparently reviewed pay data, found gender-based differences, and adjusted the salaries of affected women
As a leader, recognise the impact and pervasiveness of unconscious bias, seek to understand it, and improve decision making practices to reduce its impact
Procurious has launched Bravo!, a group that seeks to celebrate and promote women working within procurement. Get involved here.
Kishwar Rahman shares her thoughts on the upcoming shift to a gig economy, the need for digital transformation, and the importance of networks for women in procurement.
Thriving in the gig economy
Rahman, a digital transformation lawyer, has recently completed a project as policy lead for the digital marketplace in the Australian Federal Government’s Digital Transformation Agency. She has now progressed to a lead role working for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to assist in setting up an e-Marketplace for the organisation.
“I’m a classic example of the gig-economy professional”, says Rahman. “I’ve moved from project to project, offering my professional skills. Businesses are increasingly looking to hire the right people at the right time for project-based employment.”
According to Rahman, the whole notion of the permanent role is becoming less appropriate as businesses transition towards a consultancy model where experts move between businesses or different projects within a large organisation. “It’s very different to the concept of the ‘job for life’ that existed in our parents’ generation, and still an expectation of employment in the public service.”
So, what can organisations and individuals do to prepare for the gig economy? From the organisational side, it pays to be prepared for an upcoming transformation. A gig-economy office, for example, will look very different to workplaces of the past. They will be structured around a fluid and ever-changing group of professionals coming into the business, working with others on specific projects, then departing for different roles when they have completed their projects. One obvious symptom of this is the disappearing concept of the employees work station which is now being replaced by lockers for personal belongings and individual desks in quiet areas and larger tables for collaborative work.
Businesses also need to future-proof their customer-facing policies that currently favour clients with permanent roles. “Take banks, for example” says Rahman. “If you’ve ever applied for a home loan, you’ll know that they prefer to lend money to people with permanent roles. Unless they reassess their lending criteria, they’ll soon find that they won’t have enough clients as permanent roles become a thing of the past.”
Individuals, on the other hand, can prepare themselves for the gig economy by examining which of their skills could be put to use across multiple businesses, honing their expertise in those areas and becoming a member of a multi-disciplinary and multi-forming teams that move from one project to the next once they have achieved their outcomes and completed their deliverables.
Digital transformation – getting stakeholders on board
Rahman’s experience in driving digital transformation has led her to pick up essential change-management and implementation skills. “Getting people on board with a technological or process transformation is always one of the biggest challenges”, she says. “The most effective means of persuasion is to show them the efficiency in terms of speed and cost benefits. We live in a culture that expects extreme responsiveness and near-instant results, so simply highlighting speed gains will always be more effective than going into detail about improved workflows and processes.” Similarly, organisation want to find cost savings by digitising manual processes.
Another effective way to win stakeholders over to your transformation improvement is to find some common language on the benefits of the change. “Look for a benefit that everyone can relate to. A digital transformation, for example, will almost always lead to the automation of administrative tasks, which will free people up to do more creative and meaningful work. Reskilling and retraining will also be critical to this gig-economy. Education and training will also have to change in form and shape of delivery with consumers demanding the option to shape a course and its mode of delivery and study at their own time and pace to fit it around paid work and personal commitments”.
Networking with women in procurement
One of the reasons Rahman is attending Women in Procurement 2017 is out of curiosity. “Before last year I didn’t know there was a separate forum for women in the profession. I’m interested in seeing who’s going to be there, who’s participating, and who are the female leaders in the field. Additionally, the procurement profession, just when it has started to be recognised as a profession, is also being reshaped by the gig-economy. What will procurement look like in the future and what are the skill set that young women will need to participate in this profession in the future”.
The networking opportunity is also crucial. “Historically, women have had a lack of access to networks. Events like this can connect you with a pool of expertise – peers who you can ring up and share ideas with and problem solve.”