Lack of female CPOs 'a disappointment'

8 March 2013

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8 March 2013 | Anna Reynolds

Women are slowly making progress in the procurement profession but there is still a long way to go, as International Women's Day (IWD) is held today.

Robyn Wright, a principal at AT Kearney said: “Women are good buyers, great managers and excellent drivers of category management – CPO [representation is] the disappointment.

“For a profession that has 50/50 intake of men and women it’s a shame that this is not the case for the top executive roles. Women are not perceived as great leaders and action needs to be taken.”

Sarah Ellis, director of Procurement Presence who has held senior roles at BAA, the BBC and Visa, identified the challenge for women is a difference in style.

“Females are not as direct as their male counterparts and this reticence can unfortunately hold women back.” She said there are now more females in senior roles but there is still a lot to be done such as creating the right climate that will help women succeed. “Over the coming years I hope to see more women coming through the promotional pipeline to CPO level.”

Christina Langley, managing director at Langley Search & Selection said the situation is “heading in the right direction” as people become aware of the need to diversify, but issues around world/life balance remain. “Women do earn the top roles by merit which makes them an important role model for people beneath them.”

Wright added board elections are often a “closed shop” for women, so many are turning to smaller or not-for-profit organisations to get a step up. Research by Cranfield University in 2012 found, 47 of the 190 board appointments to FTSE 100 companies were women (approximately 25 per cent) – an increase from 11 per cent four years previously in 2008.

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