Rising number of women in senior roles, says procurement head

8 March 2017

The chair of CIPS Global Congress has described how she has seen an increasing number of women move into senior-level management positions in the procurement profession.

Speaking on International Women’s Day, Nikki Bell, CIPS trustee and head of procurement and commercial policy and project assurance at Scottish Government, said she wasn’t yet sure how she would be celebrating the occasion, but would definitely be “spending time with some incredible women” in the profession. 

“There has been an increase in the numbers of women getting senior-level management positions,” said Bell, who sits on the CIPS Global Board of Trustees. “Many more women are coming to the fore.”

International Women’s Day, of course, is a celebration of the difference women from all backgrounds and sectors have made, are making and are continuing to make, and in procurement Bell has certainly witnessed a lot of change in the roles women perform and continue to play.

Bell acknowledged that men do still hold the numerical advantage in CPO and leadership roles, something that is symptomatic across many professions and certainly not unique to procurement. But she is delighted to see the tide turning: “It’s no surprise. I still see very few women getting [very] senior positions, she said. “It’s getting better, but we still need to do more.”

Bell, who landed her first procurement role straight from university as a graduate in 1990, observed that at that time supply chain roles were predominantly filled – and certainly led – by men. The proportion of women in middle management roles has increased significantly since then.

And as for those women starting out in the profession, Bell has some sagely advice about working on your own skill-set as the best way to progress up the career ladder.

“While it’s good to have a mentor,” she said, “build on your own skills and be true to yourself.”

And to encourage more women into leadership roles?

“Invest in building and developing your emotional intelligence and resilience; and keep building and nurturing that network of trusted lieutenants and advisors,” she said.

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