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Turning Disruption into Opportunity for Women in Procurement

9 June, 2020 | By Matthias Gutzmann

AI will transform the world in profound ways, and one thing is certain: AI will thoroughly disrupt employment patterns. Core job skills will change and while some jobs will disappear altogether, new jobs will be created.

Unfortunately, this disruption, rather than helping women, is likely to further interrupt progress toward gender equality. According to The World Economic Forum, the jobs under the greatest threat of automation and displacement are disproportionately those held by women.

However, disruption always presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses and the workforce. To drive innovation and growth, companies must pursue greater levels of diverse workforce participation – in which women play a critical part. Ultimately, the rise in women in procurement will help businesses have a broader foundation to create end-to-end solutions and innovations.

At DPW, we’re on a mission to increase the visibility of successful women leaders as role models to drive more diversity in inclusion in procurement. We recently spoke with three highly accomplished female leaders to get their view on how we can advance women in procurement. Here is what they said.

#1: Marielle Beyer, Head of Global Procurement, Roche

DPW: How did you overcome internal resistance and win influence in a male-dominated field like procurement?

Beyer:
Firstly, my observation is that male dominance in procurement is no longer so overwhelming, and today, procurement has many female professionals and aspiring leaders. In past times I have sat in meetings with all male colleagues. To be honest, I find it boring rather than inspiring.  In situations when male colleagues have tried to talk over me, I have found it even more important to make myself heard. I am a firm believer in the richness of the content, if you have something meaningful to contribute, people will listen. If you have an inspiring vision to share, people will pause and reflect. If you can demonstrate accomplishment with passion not arrogance, people will listen. When demonstrated, meaningful conversation between equals can take place.

DPW: How can women leaders uplift other women in procurement?

Beyer: Roche has more than 50% women working in procurement roles, so in a sense, we are already on equal footing. The focus is more about how we can help advance female high achievers towards senior leadership roles. Starting a family for some women may feel like career suicide and can be an emotionally difficult time. So what can we do? Role model and infuse confidence. Instinctively, females don’t have to work their socks off to achieve this! My sense is that women are overly critical of themselves, their capabilities and competencies – with absolutely no reason to be. We have a role to play in righting the balance. I have met so many talented female procurement colleagues and I feel humbled that many work in my organisation. I see it as my responsibility to ensure we create an environment where for example, starting a family is not a career limiting factor.

DPW: What traits or actions are key for women who want to succeed in procurement?

Beyer: Success comes from being passionate about the impact you can have. Have a vision of what good looks like and then be relentless about pursuing it. Be able to translate the needs of the business to procurement outcomes and solutions. Lead and drive change, trusting and empowering at the lowest level.

#2: Beatrix Praeceptor, CPO, Mondi Group

DPW: How did you overcome internal resistance and win influence in a male-dominated field like procurement?

Praeceptor: Actually, I never experienced any specific resistance. In Supply Chain or procurement, successful management skills are very much around the capability to manage complexity – both in terms of stakeholder and in terms of content. This requires a less authoritarian and a more inclusive approach, which I personally think is an asset of females (and yes, this is a stereotype).

What one has to get used to in a male dominated environment is the fact that being one of the rare females you are always somehow different. Sometimes I can still see in the eyes of my colleagues the big question mark, when I or other woman says something.

It takes more courage to speak up, you need to get used to being interrupted, not heard or belittled. Sometimes for real, sometimes only in your own perception. At the end of the day, you need to build trustful working relationships on a personal level and deliver good performance to overcome possible resentments. 

I have to admit, that I also had good mentors (all of them men) and a lot of flexibility on how, when and where I can develop. I am very grateful for that.

DPW: How can women leaders uplift other women in procurement?

Praeceptor: The most powerful tool is role modeling. Women who made it to the top are supposed to support other women.

They can (or better they should) give younger females the confidence that it is possible to reach C-level, they can take measures personally to enhance more females in the talent pipeline and give them visibility, and they can use their influence to make a change in the company culture and in the behavior of male colleagues. This is valid in any function, not just procurement.

I have also experienced that female networks are very powerful and provide a good alternative to the “old boys networks” which are anyhow not easy or actually impossible to access for women.

DPW: What traits or actions are key for women who want to succeed in procurement?

Praeceptor: As in any other function, there are three elements of a successful career:

a) have the will to make a difference, to influence things, to take decisions and grab opportunities as they come.

b) focus on your strength – procurement and supply chain are very wide areas, so find out what you want be it projects, be it being a buyer or taking a leading position

c) most importantly be yourself. If you try to fit others expectations and derail from what makes “you”, it will cost a lot of energy, which you cannot use for the role itself.

It took me many years to recognize, that we do not need more women to act like men, but we need women to be like women. That’s how we can harvest the benefit of diversity.

#3: Visna Wrightman, Former CPO, Dairy Farm Group

DPW: How did you overcome internal resistance and win influence in a male-dominated field like procurement?

Wrightman:
“Deliver on Your Promise” was always a motto that I worked by, which allowed me to demonstrate reliability and consistency, whilst building trust and connections internally.

I would spend more time listening before responding, so as to learn new information, as well as using emotions where possible to try to persuade and appeal to others. 

What it taught me was to adjust my leadership and communication styles in order to get the best possible outcomes from the teams and environments that I was operating within at any particular point in time within my career.

DPW: How can women leaders uplift other women in procurement?

Wrightman: It is always important to demonstrate your own passion and enthusiasm for making a difference in diversity and “paying it forward” to others so that you too can make a positive impact on someone’s journey. 

Where possible, I share career opportunities, connect others with potential mentors, organise networking events with inspiring speakers and even share my own knowledge and wisdom in targeted sessions with those who may find listening to my personal journey valuable. 

Always remember that no-one ever does it on their own and that inspiring and uplifting others is simply a matter of maintaining a positive attitude and taking the initiative.

DPW: What traits or actions are key for women who want to succeed in procurement?

Wrightman: Traits of successful leaders that I have admired include those which are authentic, are courageous, openly collaborate, are customer centric, have integrity, are commercial and have empathy.

Most importantly, everyone should stay true to themselves and develop their own personal style and not become “mini me’s”. 

Leadership skills need to evolve and be continually worked upon to ensure that you become the very best you can be for yourself, your team and the organisation.  It is never a set and forget.

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DPW is committed to be the most inclusive and representative community in procurement. To learn more about Diversity & Inclusion at DPW, go to www.dpwconf.com/diversity-inclusion/

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