Queens of Procurement

By Dr. Kath Ringwald Director of the Procurement Best Practice Academy.

For over 100 years we have been celebrating International Women’s Day in one shape or form. During that time, women’s lives have changed completely. Universal Suffrage was just one landmark on the road to women gaining equal access to education and career opportunities, serving in the front line with the armed forces, making informed choices about childbearing and playing a full part in all aspects of society. However, the reality for many women around the world is far from equality of opportunity and many still struggle to gain respect and recognition. Women graduates in the UK still earn less than their male counterparts who graduate with similar degrees and are in similar jobs. The average wage for women in the UK is still less than that for men, though the gap is narrowing. Around the world women are still fighting for control of their own bodies, the right to an education and the right to make choices for themselves and for their children. In terms of equality, there is still much to be done.

In our own profession there is good and bad news to report regarding equality. A recent survey by CIPS  shows that since 2005 Procurement professionals have been paid well above the national average for ‘all professions’, but though male and female purchasing professionals enjoy relatively equal salaries at assistant manager to middle manager levels, the picture changes drastically at senior manager and Head of Function level. Only 33% of senior managers in the survey are women and their earnings are 5% less than men. Disappointingly, only 22% of Heads of Function are women, earning on average 15.6% less than their male counterparts.

Thirty years ago we might have attributed these statistics to the traditional view that mothers should take a career break to look after their children, or a lack of adequate child care arrangements, or limited opportunities for advancement in male-dominated industries, but we now live in a very different world. Procurement and supply chain management opportunities are now widely available to women and we are seeing more and more examples of women holding senior positions in the profession. Sue Moffat heads the newly launched National Procurement Service in Wales, Nikki Bell is Head of Scottish Procurement Policy and Strategy, Sarah Ellis was Director of Procurement at BAA and is now Director of Procurement Presence. Shirley Cooper and Dr Jane Gibb have both been presidents of the CIPS and here in Wales the academic community can claim to have a fair representation of females with myself and Dr Rachel Mason Jones here at University of South Wales and Professor Christine Harland, Professor Helen Walker and Jane Lynch at Cardiff University.

Despite these advances, we are more than familiar with the jibes – however well intentioned – about ‘women and shopping’ and there is still a sense that the top jobs are occupied by men.  As academics and practitioners we need to stand up and be counted – and our numbers are increasing. There may not be a ‘glass ceiling’ but we still need to fight for a seat in the boardroom with 100% of the rewards the role deserves.

So, I call upon all of the women in the profession to inspire the next generation of Queens of Procurement, to continue the fight for equality and to continue to show that this is one profession where women can equal and often out-perform the men.

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