Do the right thing

David Noble, Group CEO, Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply
9 December 2014

Who invented the chocolate chip, the first car heater, the fire escape, the life raft and the medical syringe?

These are all excellent inventions and life would be much poorer without them – even the chocolate chip. And, although you may not know the individual inventors, was there any hint they were all female?

Female inventors are not unusual in any way but after last month’s first Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED), one of the largest global events celebrating women inventors and driven, creative business women, it’s worth reflecting on the part women play in business and society.

The day was supported by the United Nations and the US Department of State. It was held during Global Entrepreneurship Week and offered an opportunity to encourage and support 250 million girls living in poverty (in the 144 countries that took part in the celebrations) to find a way to improve their lives and contribute to the world’s economy.

The 21st century is no place for inequality of any kind and yet, depending on where women live, they have only between 58-70 per cent of the opportunities open to their male counterparts to succeed in business.

That’s staggering because when women enter business, several things set them apart. Not least, loans taken out by women have a 96 per cent repayment rate, making them a more secure investment. In 2013, there were almost nine million female-owned businesses in the US alone, employing almost eight million people and contributing $1.3 trillion (£828 billion) in revenue to the US economy.

Perhaps the most thought-provoking aspect of what educated, successful women offer is their contribution to human welfare. For example, around 80 per cent of a woman’s earning potential goes back to her family, increasing others’ potential too.

In the US, very few Fortune 500 companies are run by women (26 as of October 2014), but WED predicts female-owned businesses are set to grow by 90 per cent over the next five years.

Our membership is virtually 50/50, half of the CIPS senior management team are women and also around 60 per cent of staff around the world. The institute will continue to support gender equality in the profession and in business and we will shortly be announcing an initiative with The Commonwealth Businesswomen (CBW) Network for women’s economic empowerment. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.

• A steady supply of mentors?

We were privileged to hear from Cherie Blair CBE QC at this year’s CIPS UK Annual Dinner.

The former ‘first lady’ talked about the launch of her Foundation for Women in Business, which was created to support female entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets.

The foundation has identified a number of barriers to female entrepreneurs, including business skills, technology and finance, but it has developed a unique way to break down these obstacles through the use of mentoring, online technology and a 24/7 approach crossing time and geographic boundaries.

Through this innovative programme, mentees get the support of a business professional for 12 months to concentrate on their business goals and get them flying in the early stages of building a business.

The foundation is looking for both male and female mentors around the world to help develop a global community of entrepreneurs where everyone is invested in each other’s success.

I think procurement and supply chain professionals are perfectly placed to put themselves forward as mentors. From January we’ll be letting you know how you can get involved.

David Noble, group CEO, CIPS

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