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© Getty Images

Four key hurdles faced by women in procurement

For International Women’s Day CIPS asked women in procurement across the globe for their insights on a range of topics.

The theme of the day is #ChooseToChallenge and from their answers we identified four key challenges women face in their careers.

1. Prejudice against women

Maryanne Karanja, supply chain professional, Africa, said: “I choose to challenge discriminatory norms, standards and expectations, and the ‘double bind dilemma’ – whereby women in leadership are often faced by a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation due to gender bias.”  

Ashleigh Turner, procurement category manager, Hastings Deering, said: “I challenge everyone to look at the people around them that they may have judged, restricted, or rejected, preventing them from progressing in their careers because of a stereotype applied to them.

“The only way things will change is by being self aware of our own beliefs and challenging those beliefs.” 

Unequal expectations were called out as something that needs to be challenged in the workplace as women are often held to higher standards. 

Kimberley Campbell, head of supply chain at Carrs Billington Agriculture, said: “During my career, I had to work harder than male colleagues to have the same recognition and it has taken longer to build rapport and credibility with executive-level males.” 

Dr Ayanda Nteta, director at Pula Research and Consulting Services, who works in the mining and manufacturing industry, said she has to prove herself “to a level beyond what is expected of men”.

2. Lack of female networking opportunities

Wendy Tate, William J. Taylor professor of business and Cheryl Massingale faculty research fellow at University of Tennessee, Department of Supply Chain Management, advocated building up a supportive female community and creating a more inclusive networking environment to prevent women being disadvantaged in male-dominated professions. 

She said: “Decisions can be made outside of a typical ‘work’ setting (which is even worse during the time of the pandemic), on the golf course, at a bar, via text/chat groups where women are excluded.” 

Fatima Balfaqeeh, procurement consultant at RKAH Adminstrative Consultancy Studies, feels that most of the networking setups are still very much male-driven. 

Dr Faith Mashele, head of the Procurement Centre of Excellence at Nedbank, South Africa, and chairperson of CIPS Gauteng Branch, said: “I choose to challenge the narrative that women don’t always support other women. I believe in promoting a culture of inclusivity in society and our social circles. It has been said that our greatest power and strength lies in standing together as women.” 

To provide support and networking opportunities, Mashele created the foundation Makgarebe A Mahikeng with her sister, aimed at connecting young females from her hometown Mahikeng in South Africa.

3. Imposter syndrome and barriers to confidence

Melinda Johnson, commercial director at the UK Department of Health and Social Care, called on professionals to raise the profile and understanding of issues like imposter syndrome, which often affects women, causing insecurities around work, promotions and applying for new job opportunities. 

“There is still much to do on gender, the more issues are called out and spoken about openly to educate people, the faster we will reach a more equal and inclusive society,” she said.

Ashleigh Turner, procurement category manager at machinery supplier Hastings Deering, said there are barriers to confidence that women need to overcome. 

“We have enough against us as women, we don’t need to be against ourselves as well. The biggest challenge is not allowing any of those people’s opinions to get in your head, cause self doubt and stop you from reaching your full potential.”

4. Work-life balance

Suzan S.Hammoudeh, pharmacy administrative affairs head at King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan, said: “I choose to challenge inequity in the workplace by addressing life balance, burnout, and emotional wellness. Everyone can voice concerns, and balancing between the three pillars: family, career and continuous education.”

She added inclusiveness played a part in building balance, “for example, through having an accessible work environment for employees who are physically challenged, or having day care options for parents”.

Johnson, who is also the gender champion ambassador for the Government Commercial Function (GCF), said the GCF Gender Network came to realise that “men’s issues are inextricably linked to women’s issues”, emphasised by family situations during the pandemic lockdown, so it is essential domestic responsibilities are shared.

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