The Value Of Women And Diversity In Global Procurement

Featured In Future Of Sourcing

By Karina Swette
This article first appeared in Future Of Sourcing on April 12, 2019.

If there’s a part of any company that ought to understand the value – the business value – of diversity, it’s procurement. Buyers have to build relationships with a cast of characters, both suppliers and internal clients, who have very different objectives, vision, culture and modes of communication. And that cast seems to get bigger and more diverse all the time. It’s more than any one person, or any one kind of person, can handle.

You would expect procurement organizations to be further along the path to inclusion than other functions. But a recent survey I helped conduct for my firm, Oliver Wyman, suggests that’s not necessarily the case. The study (available here) looked at gender parity – just one element of diversity, but a significant one. More than 300 chief procurement officers at American, European and Asian companies responded. Their answers tell us that 38 percent of the procurement workforce is female (comparable to the 35 percent figure our sister company Mercer found in a similar survey of the overall workforce). There were, predictably, big variations by industry and geography, with aeronautics and construction employing fewer women and financial and public institutions employing more, and Asia lagging far behind the U.S. and Europe. An incremental issue is that across the board women make up a smaller percentage of the upper ranks, filling only 25 percent of procurement management roles.

Sixty percent of the CPOs in the survey said they employed more women than they did three years ago.

But change is coming. Sixty percent of the CPOs in the survey said they employed more women than they did three years ago, and they were happy with the results. CPOs of organizations where women made up 40 percent or more of the procurement function were more likely to report positive economic performance than those that employed 20 percent or fewer women. And the 65 percent of CPOs who said they had increased the number of women in their teams said that performance had improved: with creativity and innovation driving new partnerships and greater efficiency. 

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