13 May 2004
Women need to enhance their assertiveness, team-building and leadership skills to get ahead in procurement, delegates were told at the ISM conference.
But listeners cited macho office environments and unfair promotion practices as barriers and called on senior female executives to mentor younger women to break the cycle.
Average salaries in December 2003 showed female procurement professionals earned on average $8,000 a year less than men.
While equality has come closer, Tracy Stevens, chief procurement officer for Salt Lake City Corporation, said many women were still seen as reluctant to take risks and lacking leadership qualities such as assertiveness.
But assertive women were branded "bitchy". She said: "As a woman, you need to take the emotion and put it to one side while you deal with a situation.
"If we aren't confident in what we do, it is almost impossible for anyone else to be confident in our abilities."
Stevens said women tended to be better managers than their male counterparts, and should concentrate on developing and demonstrating their leadership skills to senior management.
"It's important for women to take calculated risks, but you have to go beyond that and point them out to managers as well."
Melinda Hackett, former strategic procurement director at BMG Entertainment, said: "To correct the existing situation, a lot of senior women have to take an active role in mentoring younger women."
She added: "The frustrating part is I see men knowing half what I do and doing a quarter of the work promoted ahead of me.
"It's not just about education and degrees. There needs to be a concerted effort to break down the existing culture so you don't need to play golf with your boss or go out drinking after work to be promoted."