How to succeed in procurement as a woman

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
5 March 2020

Building networks, an appetite for learning and setting goals are among the key habits cited by women who have carved successful careers in procurement.

In interviews conducted by CIPS for International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March, female leaders in the profession offered advice to women at the beginning of their careers, including getting a mentor, being persistent, being clear about priorities in professional and personal life, and backing yourself.

Melinda Johnson, commercial director at the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “I know many brilliant younger women who simply lack confidence and worry too much, as I did. The imposter syndrome is still rife – making women feel they have to know more, work harder, longer hours – to give themselves the assurance they have the right to be there.”

Kimberley Campbell, category buyer at Heineken UK, said: “I have during my career had to work harder than male colleagues to have the same recognition and it has at times taken longer to build rapport and credibility with senior/executive level males.  But I have turned that into a positive and this has been one of my main drivers in the success of my career.”

In the interviews women recalled a past era of being asked if they were planning families during interviews, a macho atmosphere in meetings, being expected to tidy the office, get coffees, do the dishes, and accepting innuendoes.

A common theme was having the confidence to succeed, including “fake it till you make it”.

Jo Bailey, CEO of Progressive Systems, said: “If an opportunity comes up, especially if others suggest it to you or encourage you – go for it. Don’t tell yourself you’re not ready for it or compare yourself to others. Give it a shot. I missed opportunities earlier in my career to progress much faster than I did, because I had less confidence in myself than what others had in me.”

Nikki Rowbottom, head of supply chain management at the British Library, said: “Having a good work/life balance is critical. I am a working mum and I am responsible along with my husband, for picking up or dropping off our two children for school and nursery. There are times when I have had to get up and walk out of meetings at 5pm, making apologies of course, because the meeting is running late and I have to get back to pick up my children.”

Celebrating International Women's Day: stories from CIPS

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