Importance of a culture of inclusion

In 2008, I launched Proco Global, a firm focused on senior-level recruitment solely on procurement, supply chain, manufacturing, engineering, and quality and operational excellence. What have I learnt as we approach the end of our first decade? That the only way truly to future-proof your supply chain is to tap into the huge variety of talent available around the world and that means promoting a genuine culture of inclusion across your organisation.

I’m a father of two daughters and in March Proco Global did something I was truly proud to tell them about. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we put our heads above the parapet and started a conversation about female leaders working in supply chain, including procurement. Most of the global businesses we work with want to address their shortage of female leaders, but in many regions there simply isn’t a big enough pool of female candidates.

As the world marked International Women’s Day, we interviewed more than 20 female leaders working in global corporations, such as Con-verse, Mondi and Coca-Cola. They told us that issues remain. Some talked of experiencing blatant discriminatory behaviour, others of being the victims of unconscious bias and many of the daily challenges they experience simply being the only woman in a meeting room.

We know procurement is not a career path women commonly take. And yet as the role of the procurement professional develops into something far more strategic, it should be more appealing.

Beatrix Praeceptor, group chief procurement officer at international paper and packaging group Mondi, says: “Twenty years ago, the under-standing of a good purchaser was basically a dog on a chain that you let out whenever you wanted to really beat down the prices from a supplier at any costs. Today, the skills needed in procurement are much more about understanding different needs, and making sure all the people that have a stake in your product are on board and aligned towards developing the best solution in terms of both cost and quality.”

She says this shift suits female candidates. “Since there has been this development towards more collaboration and more understanding, it’s actually created a great chance for females to develop in supply chain and procurement roles,” says Ms Praeceptor. “From a skills point of view, it’s ideal for women, bringing in different aspects compared to having no or limited diversity of leaders.”

Future-proofing procurement means being flexible enough to welcome the entire talent pool, engaging with young talent out of university, sup-porting working parents and providing agile working arrangements for those with caring commitments. It means mentoring and coaching your brightest stars, and maximising global mobility opportunities. And it requires senior females to act as role models and facilitate networks of support.

Finding procurement talent is tough. Sarah Millard, regional procurement director at Coca-Cola Asia-Pacific, says: “We want to encourage talent with strong business acumen who can support us to deliver better commercial deals and drive value, but critically we want them to be able to do it in a fast, efficient and innovative way that supports business growth objectives.

“What I believe makes procurement so interesting is the variety in the role and responsibility, showing that we can add real value to the business. We are working with agencies and suppliers, which gives us an external focus on the business, and at the same time we are working with different functions inside the company, using that external third-party knowledge to drive productivity, cost and quality management.”

I’m proud that Proco Global start-ed the conversation about attracting women into procurement back in March. Now I want the industry to step up, sell its story, bang its drum and make sure it is an appealing career to talented professionals, irrespective of their gender, race or sexuality.

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