April 28, 2023 | Procurement Strategy
We are in 2023. Yet, gender gaps are evident in many business functions.
Procurement also suffers from this gender gap.
A 2019 survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) found that only 38% of procurement professionals are women. This number is even lower at the senior management level.
This is concerning not only from a fairness perspective but also because it means that businesses are not fully leveraging the potential of the female workforce.
While there has been a steady increase in the number of women in procurement, gender-based stereotypes continue to persist.
Additionally, many large corporations continue to be rigid in their choice of suppliers, most of whom tend to be men owned. This also means that women-owned supplier businesses have a negligible share of the corporate procurement spend.
Despite all the hype around diversity, why does procurement continue to be a male-dominated sector? More importantly, how can businesses bring about a change and encourage more women to be a part of this function?
Gender-responsive procurement aims to address the gender gap in procurement by integrating gender considerations into procurement policies, processes, and practices. In other words, it considers the impact of procurement policies and practices on gender equality. In this process, it also enables women entrepreneurs to benefit from business opportunities.
With the objective of promoting women’s economic empowerment, it encourages the procurement of goods and services from women-owned businesses and gender-responsive enterprises. It also requires procurement to standardize processes and make information more easily available for women entrepreneurs.
Such an approach to procurement creates a more inclusive and diverse business environment. It also enhances business performance by leveraging the unique skills, perspectives and experiences of both genders.
Gender-responsive procurement also promotes a culture of innovation. By working with a diverse, women-oriented supplier base, businesses can access new products, services as well as markets. Additionally, it enhances a company's reputation and brand image by demonstrating its commitment to social justice and ethical business practices.
Implementing gender-responsive procurement requires a comprehensive approach that involves policy formation and implementation and progress reviewing over time.
To begin with, businesses should develop a procurement policy that defines the scope and requirements of gender-responsive procurement. The policy should also provide a framework for integrating gender considerations into procurement processes and practices.
As part of building supplier diversity, businesses should set targets for the percentage of contracts awarded to women-owned businesses. They should also provide easy access to procurement policies and procedures to encourage more women to pitch their goods and services. Additionally, they should partner with women’s organizations and networks to identify and engage regularly with women-owned businesses.
Businesses should conduct training programs among procurement staff to develop a strong understanding of gender issues. Training programs can help procurement staff learn how they can act in their individual capacity to alleviate gender issues and promote women empowerment.
Procurement can also work with the HR team to recruit more women in the function. To do this, they should create job postings that are more inclusive.
Businesses must create a supportive work environment for women in procurement by offering flexible working arrangements, remote work options and parental leave policies. This will make it easier for women to balance their work and family commitments.
Reviewing the program’s progress over time can help businesses assess their performance vis-à-vis set goals and identify improvement areas. For example, determine the number of contracts awarded to women-owned businesses during the period. Also, set fresh goals for the near future.
At the outset, businesses must change their mindset and raise awareness about procurement as a viable and rewarding career option for women. They can run targeted marketing campaigns, partner with educational institutions and showcase successful women in procurement roles.
They should work closely with women-owned businesses to help them understand procurement processes and requirements and build the skills and capacities necessary to successfully compete for contracts.