Gender imbalance in business is clear to see. But, in procurement, how do professional associations stack up in terms of percentage of women members?
Procurious recently launched Bravo: Celebrating Women in Procurement. Join the discussion here.
It’s well documented that females represent less than 5 per cent of CEO positions in S&P-500 companies, but organisation with greater diversity have enhanced business results.
Less described is the status of female participation across the procurement profession. So I decided to explore this using data from international Purchasing Associations (PAs).
Feedback from 22 PAs having a subscription base of around 230,000 members was received. I found that, on average, women accounted for 41 per cent of the membership base. However, the figure is skewed because the largest association is close to 50 per cent.
In reality, the majority of the other associations are in the 20-35 per cent female membership range. This also makes them a long way from gender parity.
PAs also reported that typically only 30 per cent of females attend their conferences and events, and that, correspondingly, a little under 20 per cent of women present at them.
There are also considerable differences between the national PA’s on how they are currently addressing the topic. Barring a few exceptions, most of them having no active forums.
Recent Procurement Studies
Various aspects of this topic have been outlined via a variety of different media. The most notable ones include:
- The CIPS-HAY survey in the UK charts wage disparity between men and women in procurement.
- The AT Kearney podcast titled “The Rise of the Female Economy in B2B”, argued that companies can gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace by better connecting with female buyers
- Several blogs on Procurious by the Australian-based psychologist Karen Morley, including:
Nonetheless, so far gender participation from a PA perspective has not been explored.
Over 30 national PA’s were approached for their participation in a “Women in Procurement” survey. The following 22 replied: Australia, Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, UK, USA and Vietnam.
The PA’s were sent a survey that had a combination of quantitative and qualitative questions.
Women in Procurement – The Findings
The percentage of female members from the individual PA’s has been clustered and summarised into four groups. Of the 22 respondents 21 of them provided relevant data.
This identifies that the majority of the PA’s have considerable opportunity to approach membership gender parity:
The consultancy named “Catalyst” reports gender participation at different organisational levels in a pyramidal format. Unfortunately, despite trying to explore role level with the PA’s, they did not have enough data to be able to compose any related trends.
One exception, CIPS, the UK purchasing association, has a variety of member levels, differentiated by certification. The highest, most senior level (called Fellows) had 17 per cent women (despite being a cluster 4 PA).
Nonetheless, an interesting trend was noted in the decreasing differences between percentage membership, percentage event attendance, and percentage speaker/presenters.
For the PA’s as a composite group the trend was 40 per cent, 30 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. Not quite the pyramid, but certainly a trend with procurement women having decreasing visibility.
Furthermore, it does beg the question why is there a decreasing participation, and, what can PA’s do to achieve enhanced parity?
Maintaining Highest Level of Inclusion
Despite being informed by the MD of one PA that they “simply weren’t interested in this topic”, the survey research has been able to collate snapshots from different global PA’s and related associations addressing the Women in Procurement opportunity.
- Germany’s BME held over 25 events over several years, and one-to-one mentoring is encouraged. This year, in April 2016, they hosted a forum titled “Successful Women in Purchasing – Determined, Flexible and Networked“.
- In Australia, the Quest Event in 2016 was the 2nd year of a 2 day dedicated “Women in Procurement” conference.
- CIPS-MENA (Middle East and North Africa) branch hosted a “Women in Procurement in Saudi” in May 2016. It is the first of its sort in the Middle East.
- America’s ISM NJ-branch “Annual Women in Leadership Conference” is reported within the Spend Matters Blog.
- Procurement Leaders have launched in September 2016 an interesting microsite.
When talent compares a prospective career in Procurement with Finance, Marketing, Sales, IT, etc., our track record as a profession might be a problem. And it is hardly enough just to be aware of the issue.
Procurement Associations have an obligation, not only to their members, but to the organisations and communities that engage them, to maintain the highest possible standards and society inclusion.
Enhancing the Profession
What should Procurement Associations do to enhance the attractiveness of the profession…?
On 5th October 2016, CIPS-Switzerland held a “Women in Procurement” evening event. Over 80 participants enjoyed presentations from three great speakers. We now have plans to start a CIPS-Switzerland WiP forum.
The first letter of the word inclusion is “I” – what can “I” be doing about a topic of interest or an arena that needs addressing? It’s your turn now…!
John Everett is the CIPS-Switzerland branch chairperson as well as the EMEAI regional purchasing director for The Dow Chemical Company. His 30-year career spans product innovation, business development, procurement and business services leadership.