Tag Archives: women in procurement

Best of the Blog: Overcoming Gender Bias In Procurement

Jackie Aggett, Regional Commercial Manager at Laing O’Rourke, discusses the gender bias she has come up against in procurement, and how she has overcome it to get to where she is today.

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 interview with Jackie Aggett who explains the gender discrimination she’s endured and her advice on how to overcome it. 

Jackie Aggett hadn’t been in procurement long when she needed to spend weeks preparing a major annual report about the procurement of earth moving tyres.

She handed it over to the site manager and watched him hurl the report angrily across the room. It hit the wall and fell apart.

“What would you know about earth moving tyres?,” he bellowed?
The 28-year-old calmly walked over and picked up the report, and told him again that there were going to be changes. Like it, or not.

“Every part of me wanted to turn around and run out the door, but I’ve always found ways to overcome challenges in the workplace and turn them into opportunities,” Aggett says.

Finding a Voice

The experience did nothing to dampen her conviction. She has worked in male dominated roles for 25 years. She started out in a supply cadetship at BHP Billiton and then went on to work in rail, construction, marine services and a seawater desalination plant.

“I learned a lot in that cadetship. My boss at the time gave me the cadetship because he saw me as being very courageous, which was part of my upbringing. He sent me straight to Port Headland, where I was the only female.”

Her colleagues weren’t used to working with women. The only uniform available to her was the men’s trousers and shirts. “They were ill-fitting and very uncomfortable. Procuring some clothes to wear to work was high on the list in those early days,” Aggett says.

If anything, her presence among the male workforce was seen perhaps only as a novelty. But that all changed once she began finding her voice in the business, and began offering new solutions to old problems.

“I had a good work ethic and believed in what I was doing, and hit the ground running. But the team weren’t engaged when I started to suggest change, and that was a difficult process to go through. However, I didn’t give up. I continued to speak up and stand up for myself.”

Creating Trusted Advisors

Aggett’s depth of experience covers roles in commercial, contractual and financial management from project start-up through to close-out. This includes all facets of tender preparation, negotiation, contract award and subsequent on-site contract administration, claims, project controls, forecasting, financial reporting and risk management as the client asset owner or contractor.

Six months ago, she was tapped on the shoulder and offered the role of procurement head with international engineering enterprise Laing O’Rourke, which took her across the country from Perth to Sydney. She jumped at the chance.

Her focus in her role has been creating a vision – working to transform the procurement function from spend managers to trusted advisers, firstly among her team of 35 people.

“It is imperative we move beyond being seen and acting as a governance compliance function. We need to understand the business strategy and align our objectives to deliver sustainable value,” she says.

Challenging the Norm

Aggett has implemented a supply relationship management programme among other initiatives, which has been a big step forward for the procurement function within the business.

“A key part of this has been challenging the way in which we engage with the supply chain. The supply chain has a wealth of knowledge and capability which, if tapped into, can provide value creating solutions for our clients, ourselves and our supply chain partners.

“Unfortunately, the construction industry does not often afford the supply chain the opportunity to bring their knowledge and capabilities to the table. Our supplier relationship management program seeks to change this.”

Aggett wasn’t specifically chasing roles in such large corporate organisations, saying one thing just led to another.

“It certainly wasn’t planned that I’d work in male-dominated industries. I had four brothers and a working mother, and was raised to believe that girls can do anything.”

Overcoming Roadblocks

She admits that early on in her career, she came up against road blocks, but didn’t for a moment consider that had anything to do with gender bias.

“I definitely came up against a lot of unconscious bias in my early roles, and at times doing my job took some courage and self-belief. Being female has definitely been a challenge in the roles I’ve held.

“I’d wonder why someone wouldn’t listen to me, or how I could better showcase my skills. I’d work very hard to win someone over, and go through the problem solving process to try and work out why I wasn’t getting the result I wanted. The fact that I was a woman was always at the bottom of the list. Now, after 25 years working in the industry, I arrive at that conclusion a lot quicker and obviously have a lot more confidence in the role.”

Aggett hopes times have changed and that young women entering the procurement industry don’t come up against the gender bias she experienced.

“Saying that, I have been fortunate to work with individuals and organisations that have encouraged me to take opportunities, to believe in my abilities and to reward me for my efforts. I have experienced many organisations that have allowed flexibility in my working week, as I’ve raised two daughters as a single parent.”

While there are no requirements to do so, she advocates the importance of having a degree behind you for anyone working in procurement. Her law and finance degree has stood her in good stead, she says.

“It has absolutely served me well to have the formal qualifications behind me. When people are passionate about procurement and they’ve got the formal education, it gives them a seat at the board table in any situation they’re in.”

Procurious launched Bravo, a group to celebrate and promote women working in procurement. Get involved by joining here. 

Time Management: Sorry, You’re Just Not A Priority For Me

A colleague once told me there’s “a special place in hell” for people who don’t return emails. Yes, it’s frustrating, particularly when projects are held up. It’s easy to see these people as blockers, but it may well be they are actually managing their time much more effectively than you……

Modern wisdom would have us believe that our time management has a direct impact on our personal and professional success.

People who know their priorities and have the discipline to work their way down their to-do list from top to bottom definitely seem to win the day. But for us mere mortals, it often seems impossible to juggle all of our commitments at once.

How to get your priorities as a priority on others’ to-do list is a blog for another day. Today I want to ask how well you are managing your time? Do you know which aspects of your life should be an absolute priority? And offer five tips on how to make your time work for you.

The time bomb that always ticks

In her Walt Street Journal article, “Are you as busy as you think?” Laura Vanderkam reminds us that although we all think we’re very busy, we spend long stretches of time lost on the Internet or puttering around the house, unsure exactly what we are doing.

As Vanderkam says, “We all have the same 168 hours per week, but since time passes whether we acknowledge it or not, we seldom think through exactly how we’re spending our hours.”

Are you a priority?

We all make time for what we feel is important in our lives – but have you critically thought through what is REALLY important in your life? That’s our priorities become clear and we can more deftly make decisions about the use of our time.

Being blessed with three businesses, two children, an amazing bunch of friends and a husband who constantly travels the world, one of the skills I pride myself on has been my ability to manage time. I may rarely “be on time” (a glaring and embarrassing fault)….but I do manage to “make the most of my time”.

How? Because I plan just about everything (including doing nothing!) down to the day and almost a year in advance. I don’t always get it right, but feel confident enough to share with you four pieces of advice.

1. Make time to plan your time

It sounds like double dutch, but we need to make time to plan our time. There are so many people who don’t actually invest the time to think through how they want to spend their time. Once you now your priorities, it becomes easier to allocate how much time you want to devote to work, rest and play. My husband and I literally have face to face formal meetings and teleconferences during work hours to co-ordinate and plan our time well in advance.

2. Map your plan on a page

Now this is very nerdy…but over the years we’ve perfected an A3 colour coded six-month calendar. Our friends and colleagues laugh at us, but it’s the best method we know to get a high level overview of how we are going to spend our time whether it’s business commitments, travel, school holidays or social plans. Most importantly, this allows us to identify when things are just “too crazy” and where we have to say no and change what we had originally planned to make sure we don’t push our family to breaking point.

3. Record it all into one place

Your diary is your friend, not your foe, when it comes to freeing up time. Once again it sounds basic but having all of your commitments in one place, ideally electronically, saves a lot of discussion, confusion and potential marital disagreements! For some people it works to have every single commitment in Microsoft Outlook, with all the details for each event included. It is a one-stop shop – school holidays, children’s sporting commitments, parties, as well as all the business stuff all in one spot. This can help to identify potential clashes immediately and makes it clear to everyone who is doing what, when.

4. Plan to do nothing

The only real luxury in life is time. You can’t get time back.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but you have to make sure you include “doing nothing” in your schedule.

Many years ago a friend gave me some priceless advice on how to decline an invitation: “Tell them you have plans. If your plan is to do nothing, then that’s your plan. You’re busy, you can’t go.”

Having “plans” to do nothing doesn’t mean catching up with friends, hitting the gym, doing a cooking class or going shopping. It means literally doing nothing. No commitments, no appointments, the freedom, if you choose, to absolutely do nothing.

5. Allow for some flexibility

I speculated at the beginning of this article that the elusive person who doesn’t return your emails may actually be managing their time more effectively than you. It’s possible that they’ve made a plan, they’re going to stick to it and they’re not going to let your request, however urgent, de-rail their day. Flexibility is of course vital – there are some issues (and people) that you simply can’t afford to ignore – but better time-management will grant you a level of flexibility that you otherwise would never have.

One thing I learnt early on in my time management journey, was that by scheduling everything, even my social life, down to the last minute, I was still left with the feeling that I had no free time. It’s important to have a lot of days in the year where you have the luxury of waking up and saying “what will I do today?”. There’s real freedom in that, which takes the stress away. Career and life resilience is about building in, and enforcing, some circuit breakers to help you cope when life becomes overloaded with the inevitable unexpected, unanticipated events.

Own It: Taking Control Of Your Own Procurement Destiny

No-one else is responsible for your career, which means you’ve got to take the controller and drive your own successes. Pauline Rolfe, speaker at this year’s Quest Women in Procurement event, shares her experiences of taking control and escaping the passenger seat. 

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being asked to deliver a speech at a conference. You want to bring new ideas, provide insights into your area of expertise, but most importantly connect with and be relevant to your audience.

The opportunity to present at the Women in Procurement conference in Melbourne is one that I definitely took seriously. I did put a lot of thought into what I wanted to talk about as well as how to best deliver the message. After many rehearsals late the night before and one on the morning of the presentation I felt anxious but ready to do it.

The feedback that I’ve received from the attendees has been surprising and overwhelming – not only while presenting but mostly afterwards. The two personal examples that I shared that seemed to have resonated most with the audience were when talking about my number one career advice – “own it”.

For a long time I thought it was up to my manager to decide on my career and whether or not I would grow. I always had big dreams and ambitions but I really was in the passenger seat. Clearly I was not confident in myself.

Example 1- Going For It!

When I first saw that ad for a job at Accenture I thought “Wow, this looks like a great job with a great company, but there is no way I will be good enough”. A week later I saw that job ad again on LinkedIn and I told my husband: “Look at that great job with Accenture!” He said to me straight away: “You should apply! Go and do it!” So I did. Three days later I got a phone call from HR, and a week later I got the job. Without my husband pushing be and believing in myself I would never have joined this great company and worked on incredible projects. Isn’t that crazy? I told the audience that since then a major shift happened to me – I no longer wait for anyone to tell me whether or not I can or can’t do things.

Example 2 – Taking Control

Take the plunge and apply for awards. I remember on the night of the CIPS Australasia Awards Ceremony I was sitting next to a guy who asked me, “Who nominated you for the young procurement professional of the year award?” I said “No one. I just put the application in myself.” And I remember thinking “Gosh, lucky I wasn’t waiting for anyone to nominate me, because this would have never happened!”

It is not up to your manager, your partner or whoever to decide on what your career will look like. It is up to YOU. Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t wait to be nominated, just step up and lead. This may well be the key to building a great career – taking control and believing that you can do it.

It has been such a privilege sharing these thoughts and hopefully encouraging women to “own it”. Thank you everyone for your kind feedback, it has been a terrific two days!

Pauline Rolfe is a Procurement Operations Associate Manager at Accenture Australia. This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Gender Diversity: Would You Leave $12 Trillion On The Table?

Anne Tesch is one of those professionals who has facts and figures at her fingertips to back up every point she makes. As she tells Procurious, it’s vital that supply managers have the facts in their possession when pursuing a goal as important as increasing gender diversity.

Why should gender diversity be high on every company’s agenda?  

Where should I start? There’s a vast amount of global research and evidence on the importance of women’s economic empowerment and the benefits of hiring women-owned businesses. To list a few key studies:

  • McKinsey’s Global Institute report found that $12 trillion could be added to the Global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. Economies most impacted (with GDP gains) would be India (16%), Latin America (14%), China (12%), and Sub-Saharan African (12%);
  • Another McKinsey survey found that 34% of companies said working with women-owned suppliers had increased their profits;
  • Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn only 10% of the income, and own very little of the world’s private property;
  • There are approximately 187 million women entrepreneurs worldwide who own between 32% and 39% of all businesses in the formal economy;
  • Women dominate the global marketplace by controlling more than $20 trillion in consumer spending that will rise to $30 trillion in the next decade; and
  • According to research conducted by WEConnect International, women-owned businesses globally earn less than 1% of the money spent on products and services by large corporations and governments.

What are your recommendations for supply managers looking to increase their engagement with women-owned businesses?

1. Know your numbers

Firstly, it’s important to know the percentage of women-owned businesses in your supply arrangements.  Why not do some research and ask suppliers if they are “women-owned” which, by definition, means that they are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more women. Furthermore, why not consider tracking tier 2 spend, as smart companies will often increase spend with women-owned businesses to win large contracts.

 2. Spread the word

Convince others in your team that working with women-owned suppliers is good for business. A recent McKinsey survey indicated that working with women-owned suppliers increases profits, while the Hackett Group’s research last September shows 99% of diverse suppliers meet buyers’ expectations, with nearly 25% exceeding expectations.

Though improvement to the bottom line is always important, incorporating women-owned businesses in your supply chain also provides an opportunity to grow your customer base, attract and retain talent, and enhance your branding – all while increasing profits and reducing costs.

 3. Network, network, network

Accessing networks of women-owned businesses, even just to participate in RFPs, is a critical success factor but one of the more difficult parts of starting and managing a supplier diversity program.  Engaging with third parties that specialise in connecting buyers with diverse suppliers, such as WEConnect International, can assist this process. Our organisation certifies women-owned businesses through a rigorous, globally accepted process, and provides access to these organisations through our eNetwork.

What are the proven benefits of having more women in your supply chain?

Women influence the vast majority of purchasing decisions globally, but they are significantly underrepresented in global value chains. Even though more than one third of private businesses are owned and controlled by women, on average, women earn only 1 percent of large corporate and government spend globally. Benefits of having more women in your supply chain include:

  • Mirroring your diverse customer and employee base – it’s important to reflect the communities around the globe where you operate, not only with staffing, but also with your supplier base;
  • Supporting your corporate clients – more corporates are growing their tier 2 inclusive sourcing programs and requesting reporting from their prime suppliers;
  • Supporting business growth in new markets;
  • Accessing innovation and securing competitive advantage from new SMEs offering more creative options;
  • Reducing costs through competitive bidding;
  • Accessing local networks and knowledge; and
  • Enhancing the company brand and community engagement by promoting success stories about working with women-owned businesses.

Anne Tesch and other leaders in the profession will be speaking at Quest’s Women in Procurement 2017 event in Melbourne on 26-27 April. Visit Quest Events to download a brochure and find out more.

WEConnect International is a global network that connects women-owned businesses to qualified buyers around the world.

Women in Leadership: Don’t Make The Mistake Of Behaving Like A Man

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.

Don’t change

“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

  • Initiatives that advocate for diversity are vital, particularly in supply management where there aren’t nearly enough women in leadership positions. Procurious’ Bravo campaign is a great example, as is ISM and THOMASNET’s 30 under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, along with ISM’s annual Diversity conference.
  • 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.

Procurement Rising Stars: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

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. 

Join our Women in Procurement group, Bravo,  here.

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

20400 Reasons The World Needs An International Standard For Sustainable Procurement

ISO20400, otherwise known as the International Standard for Sustainable Procurement, is due to be published this month. Procurious recently interviewed Jean-Louis Haie, sustainable procurement expert, head of the Australian delegation for ISO20400, and guest speaker at the upcoming Women in Procurement 2017 conference in Melbourne.

“We are at a tipping point in terms of the sustainable procurement journey across the globe”, says Jean-Louis Haie. “Organisations spend between 40 per cent and 80 per cent of their revenue on the supply chain, but increasingly recognise that they can’t achieve their sustainability objectives without getting their suppliers to actively contribute.”

“CPOs who are serious about sustainability goals know that around half of those objectives can only be delivered by their suppliers. There’s no such thing as an effective sustainability program without a supply chain component.”

By nature, supply chains are international, which is why having an international standard is vital. “When you’re asking a supplier based in China to align with your business’ or your country’s standards, they simply don’t have the same standards and don’t speak the same language around sustainability. ISO20400 seeks to create a standard that will enable every organisation in the world, regardless of size, industry and location, to have a flexible guidance framework on sustainable procurement.”

Learning from France’s sustainable procurement bible

Jean-Louis says that it depends on the industry and the area of sustainability under discussion, but in general, governments around the world can learn from his home country (France) when it comes to implementing sustainable procurement. Three key milestones took place – in 2006, 2010 and 2012 – that illustrate France’s journey towards a national sustainable procurement standard.

“The first thing I would mention is that France has a National Procurement Code – a “bible” for procurement professionals that’s applied to all public procurement tasks. In 2006 they changed the Code to include some clear objectives and principles around sustainable procurement. This caused a lot of change, as governments, councils, public hospitals, water corporations etc were encouraged to look at environmental and social specifications when making purchasing decisions. The private sector followed to a certain extent. The point is that it’s a national Code, and highly centralised. I now live in Australia, and we don’t really have that here – the federal government, state governments and local councils are all pretty autonomous.”

In 2010, the ObsAR, a National Association for Sustainable Procurement was created in France in reaction to a crying need to share knowledge and experience around this important topic. “It’s a platform for public and private organisations to share lessons learned around sustainable procurement, through working groups, an annual conference, and ongoing discussions.

At the same time, the government started to get involved in making sure the big buying organisations (including private companies) manage their supply relationships with SMEs fairly. It created a Charter for Responsible Supplier Relationships, which described 10 commitments to be respected by signatory organisations. This initiative was a success and thousands of organisations follow its principles now. 2 years later, the Government transformed this Charter into a certification scheme, which was tested on a selection of 30 organisations, including some SMEs, multinational companies and government agencies.”

“The certification program includes fair payment terms, fair contractual clauses, checks on abuse of power, inclusion of social and environmental requirements, and more.”

While France’s sustainability journey is encouraging, Jean-Louis notes that supply chains are international. “These are international companies dealing with an international supply chain in a global economy”, he says. “No matter how rigorous the standards are in one country, the system can’t work unless there’s a similar standard in the country you’re sourcing from – hence the need for an international standard.”

What does ISO20400 include?

The Standard includes seven core subjects, such as the environment, fair operating practices, labour issues and human rights, with a range of subtopics under those, such as discrimination and gender inequality. “It provides the reader with a thorough description of all the potential sustainability issues and risks they may face when they want to put in place a contract and buy something. Then it’s the responsibility of the procurement professional to decide what the hot spots (risks) are for their particular procurement activity, using ISO20400 as a framework. The Standard provides a methodology to set priorities. What it doesn’t do is put more weight on any one subject over another – we’re not telling people that human rights are more important than the environment, for example.”

Bringing procurement and sustainability expertise together

“In my experience, procurement professionals struggle to work with sustainability experts. They should be best friends”, say Jean-Louis. “The trouble is that there’s no framework to enable these two groups of experts to speak the same language and work more effectively together. ISO20400 will provide a framework – or a bridge – to channel the discussion in plain English so they can understand each other.”

“For example, most companies have some sort of sustainable procurement code in place, which puts pressure on suppliers to comply. But they forget that a good many of these sustainability impacts are created by bad procurement practices. Look at the fashion industry, for example – impossible deadlines put pressure on suppliers, which causes them to abandon key guidelines such as working safely and not using child labour”.

Jean-Louis Haie is the founder of Planet Procurement and a guest speaker at Quest’s upcoming Women in Procurement 2017 conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Working Parents: Stop Hiding Your Children at Work

Supercharging my career and nurturing my family at the same time has always been a struggle for me….until I brought my children out of the closet and into the workplace.

Join our Women in Procurement group, Bravo,  here.

Last week,  Professor Robert E Kelly and his two mischievous children starred in one of the funniest viral videos of all time. The whole world laughed when, in the middle of a live BBC interview, Professor Kelly’s children burst in to the room and hilariously upstaged him.

If the clip has, by some miracle, passed you by, here it is in all of its side-splitting glory:

Yes, it’s pretty funny. But let’s face it, how many times have you closed the door on your children, locked them away in a (metaphorical) closet or pushed them away when you had to perform your professional duties.

In reality, we’re constantly keeping our families behind closed doors so we can get on with our working lives. For years I have felt the need to downplay my family commitments in order to be seen as a serious career professional.

My stress levels were continually going through the roof. I was gliding over the surface with style at work, but paddling like a crazy duck under the waterline in an attempt to manage all the demands of my personal life.

But a year or so ago I decided to bring my children more visibly into my work life and it has made a big difference to me, my children…and – most importantly – those I work with.

My first foray with bringing my children to work was to take my son to Europe’s largest procurement conference, ProcureCon, Berlin. I was a speaker on a panel and thought it would be a great chance for my son to see me in action. So much for him learning about my work: he didn’t look up from his iPad once! I don’t think he learnt a squat about what I did, but at least I made the effort. Importantly, I was really touched that people were positive about my son attending the event.

One of my fellow delegates sent me this note –

“You and I met in Berlin last month at the ProcureCon Europe Conference. I admired how you were able to be real without dropping the ball on exuding leadership and kindness! But, I think that what really impressed me was that you brought your beautiful son to the conference, he was so sweet and shy! In bringing him with you, without realising it, you managed to reflect what most women go through when we have to work long hours or travel a great deal, away from our families and loved ones. There have been times that in my travels or long hours I wish I could just have my babies near me…the guilt of being dedicated to the person that makes me who I am, can be a bit heavy. But we all do, both men and women, to provide for our families, while at the same time try to get something out of the sacrifices that we may have to make. So, I sincerely thank you for bringing your son with you.”

My second foray was to take my younger son to listen to a speech I made at the Australian Embassy for Future Leaders. When I asked him about the experience afterwards, he thought about it and said, “The lemonade was great”. Another breakthrough (not)!

I know not everyone has the same flexibility as someone who runs their own company. However, as business leaders, we can do a lot to help manage the stress levels of working parents. We need to walk the talk and recognise that everyone has priorities (and not always children) that compete with work.

Here are my four ideas on how we could stop hiding our children at work and build more fluid relationships between work and home.

1.  Talk about Family

In the early days of parenthood I never spoke about my children in the workplace because I wanted to be seen as “professional”. When I first started sharing small amounts of information about my family, I realised that most of the people I worked with were parents too and could totally relate to my plight. In the right circumstances, sharing family stories has actually helped me build business relationships.

2. Take your children to work 

I have lived through so many tough days when I felt I really had to be in two places at once.  For example, having a “career-changing” meeting planned (luckily these are few and far between and the skill is in knowing which meetings really count) and, just as I was about to get started, receiving a compelling, competing call for my attention,  from a family member. These were the times when my stress levels reached an all time high and I started to think that the only solution was to quit my job and focus solely on family.

Working from home is widely accepted on these types of days, but if you were still wanting to fulfill your work obligations for just one or two hours, wouldn’t it be great if we were “allowed” to bring our family into the office?? I can hear the pressure valve release at the mere thought of it!

3. Put children in the picture 

We need more imagery of children in the places where we are building our careers. Perhaps you’ve seen the image that went viral of a US Professor who picked up and carried a crying baby during a lecture? He calmed the child, allowing the class to continue and, most importantly, the parent to complete the class.

Some of the most popular photos of outgoing US President, Barack Obama, have been with children within the White House, which is his normal place of work. We need to see more child-friendly work imagery.

4.    Remember – Everyone has priorities 

Having said all of this, working parents need to be cognisant that we aren’t the only people in the universe with priorities competing with our work. Whether you’re a parent of one, four or ten children (heaven forbid!) or even if you don’t have children, everyone struggles at times to manage their personal and professional lives in the best, and most healthy, way possible.

What we can do, as people who understand these struggles, is to be understanding of every individual, make accommodations where possible and offer flexible working environments. That way, we’ll get the most out of our happy, stress-free team!

Procurious has launched Bravo!, a group that seeks to celebrate and promote women working within procurement. Get involved here.

Are You Ready For The Gig Economy? Some Of Us Have Already Taken The Leap

Kishwar Rahman, guest speaker at the upcoming Women in Procurement conference in Melbourne, Australia, 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.”

Kishwar Rahman and other leaders in the profession will be speaking at Quest’s Women in Procurement 2017 event in Melbourne on 26-27 April. Visit Quest Events to download a brochure and find out more. 

How To Stop Writing ‘Like A Girl’ In The Workplace

Are women inclined to be more apologetic and less definitive in the workplace than men? Is a woman’s language and writing style more likely to be unassuming, uncertain – and possibly even self-deprecating?

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.

I’m a staunch feminist. Career driven, financially independent and proudly vocal about gender equality.

But I am also a copywriter and corporate trainer – a profession that forces me to scrutinise the way people write in the workplace every day. And although I routinely come across all types of business professionals who write poorly, I recently wondered: do women have specific bad writing habits of their very own?

So I did some quick research, and within a few minutes my hunch was confirmed.

According to Leadership Coach and Strategist Ellen Petry Leanse, women are three to four times more likely to use the word ‘just’ in their emails and conversations at work.

‘I am just wondering if you are available to discuss…’
‘Just following up on that report…’
‘I’m just writing to let you know that…’

So what’s wrong with ‘just’?

As Leanse explains, it’s a permission word. An apology for interrupting. Or a shy knock on a door before asking a question we have every right to ask.

Why do women feel the need to undermine the importance of their requests before even making them? I suspect we’re scared of being labelled overbearing, controlling – or god-forbid bossy. And so we overcompensate.

But here’s the more important question: What’s the consequence for women who use this weak, hesitant language at work? My hypothesis? Slower, fewer and less substantive responses to our requests… and ultimately, lower levels of respect from colleagues and clients.

(And trust me, women don’t need extra help when it comes to subtle sexism and gender inequality in the workplace.)

However, using the word ‘just’ is not the only writing crime females are more likely to commit than males. Here are some more email writing habits that could compromise your credibility at work.

  1. Overuse of qualifiers

Words such as ‘might’, ‘probably’, ‘maybe’, ‘somewhat’ and ‘possibly’ weaken your message and reveal a lack of confidence in what you’re saying.

If you don’t believe what you’re writing, why should your reader?

Before: You might want to reconsider our financial targets as I think they are probably a little too low.

After: I recommend we increase our financial targets.

  1. Unnecessary apologising and over-justification

Although apologies are appropriate on certain occasions, think twice next time you want to use the word ‘sorry’.

Do you really have something to be sorry for? Or are you simply asking a colleague to perform a task that falls comfortably within their job description?

Before: I am sorry for the inconvenience as I know you are very busy, but can you please pop by my workstation when you are next available as my computer seems to be quite slow today.

After: My computer is very slow today. Can you please come to my workstation today to have a look?

And be careful not to apologise for something that’s outside your control – or for not fulfilling an unrealistic request:

Before: I am so sorry but I wasn’t able to meet your deadline. I had too many other commitments and I need to get up really early in the morning. I tried my best but just couldn’t manage it. I hope you understand.

After: As suspected, I wasn’t able to meet your deadline. I will call you tomorrow morning to discuss next steps.

  1. Asking superfluous questions. Seeking permission.

Questions such as ‘is that okay with you?’ and ‘am I making sense?’ show a lack of confidence in your own opinions, suggestions and accomplishments.

If you need to ask whether or not you’re making sense, then you either already know your email is confusing – or you are revealing that you’re unsure of yourself and your ability to communicate effectively.

Before: ‘Would you like to see a summary of my research? You may find it quite surprising.’

After: ‘Here is a summary of my research. It contains many surprising findings, including…’

  1. Overly polite and waffly

What’s wrong with being polite?, I hear you say.

Nothing. But many of us take it too far, which can dilute the core message we’re trying to communicate.

Before: I hope you are well and that you had a really great weekend. I am just writing about our catch up next Friday and was wondering if we could possibly reschedule to the following week? Is that okay with you?

After: I have a conflict next Friday and need to reschedule our meeting. Does the following week suit you?

So, c’mon, ladies. Let’s stop undermining ourselves. It’s time to ditch these words and phrases from our emails and earn ourselves the respect in the workplace we know we deserve.

Vikki Maver is a specialist web content writer, marketing copywriter and writing skills trainer. This article first appeared on her website, refreshmarketing.com.au.

Join the women in procurement conversation in the Procurious Bravo group.