74% of women in purchasing felt gender adversity was “pervasive” © John Wildgoose
74% of women in purchasing felt gender adversity was “pervasive” © John Wildgoose

'Not enough action' as 74% of women in procurement face sexism at work

23 February 2023

Procurement teams are failing to address gender-based adversity, which is threatening to worsen talent shortages, according to a report.

The report, by online procurement network Procurious, found three-quarters (74%) of women in purchasing felt gender adversity was “pervasive”. 

A survey, involving 170 women in procurement roles across the globe, found under half (45%) believed gender equity was embraced in their workplace, while a third (33%) felt it was only “sometimes” embraced, and 22% didn’t feel it was embraced at all.

The most common incidents cited by women included men taking credit for their work or ideas, discovering they had been paid less than their male colleagues, feeling disadvantaged in the workplace because of their gender, and being asked to perform administrative work outside of their role. 

Women also reported struggling to “get air time” in virtual meetings, as well as feeling ignored or overlooked by male colleagues. 

Only 14% said their company had a strategy in place to protect and promote women in supply chain and procurement, while 16% said their company was working on implementing such a strategy. Seven in 10 (70%) said their firm either had no strategy in place or it was so ineffective “they go unnoticed”.   

Tania Seary, founding chairman and CEO of Procurious, said: “Women endure innumerable microaggressions and challenges daily.

“Although women are making gains in the workforce and forward-thinking organisations are investing in and protecting their female employees, significant challenges remain. Put bluntly: There’s a lot of talk but not enough action or results.

“We need to work together to lift up, empower and protect women in the workforce and drive real change.”

The report comes amid mass talent shortages in the industry and record levels of burnout, and it said firms are “failing” to attract and retain female talent. 

“Job stresses are off the charts – and companies are struggling to retain or recruit top talent. If procurement and supply chain leaders continue failing to empower and protect the women in their workforce, they risk losing even more talent, as their best and brightest find healthier, more supportive work environments,” the report said. 

“Most companies would do almost anything to acquire top talent, yet few invest enough to develop, engage and retain women talent.”

The report noted more women were achieving visible leadership roles in procurement, but few have been able to advance to the highest tiers. 

The survey found one fifth (23%) of respondents said women made up 40-50% of their procurement leadership team, but only 15% said there was a gender balance within the C-suite or board of directors. Only 8% of respondents identified as a VP, president, CEO, or other C-Suite executive.

Two-thirds (62%) of respondents said when they see women in procurement roles they viewed them as “inspiring role models”. This was significant, as women noted the importance of networking to form communities, find mentors and address the gender pay gap. 

Networking was voted the area that needed most improvement for women in the function, cited by 71% of those surveyed. This was followed by mentoring (69%), closing the pay gap (59%) and leadership training (55%). 

“A dearth of networking opportunities, particularly for younger women in procurement, can make it difficult to meet other, more experienced women who could serve as mentors. Lacking a community of allies makes it more difficult to bridge the gender-pay gap,” said the report.

“Without networking, it can be difficult to seek, access, or make available regular leadership training – especially if that training, like other initiatives, is rare to begin with.” 

☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.

CIPS Knowledge
Find out more with CIPS Knowledge:
  • best practice insights
  • guidance
  • tools and templates