Despite the progress women have made in the workforce during the past few decades, gender biases persist. The situation within the procurement and supply chain sector is no exception.
“I think the largest biases are the traditional biases women have faced over the years,” says Tania Seary, founder of Procurious, a procurement and supply chain professional network. “I guess the assumption is that their career is never the main focus for them as it is for men.”
Those biases often result in work-related inequalities. In fact, a 2021 study by nonprofit think tank Coqual found that one in five U.S. women in the workplace believes she is being treated unfairly based on gender.
The Pay Gap Persists
The most significant inequity? In Seary’s view, it’s the pay gap between women and their male counterparts.
When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963, U.S. women earned only 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Today — almost 60 years later — they make 82 cents for every dollar made by men, Payscale reports (considering the median salary for all men and women, regardless of job title, location, industry and years of experience).
Looking beyond just the United States, the gender pay gap in most OECD countries has decreased in the last couple of decades. And globally, women now earn approximately 20% less than men, the United Nations reports.
Despite these gains, the situation is still far from equitable. The gap often is larger, too, for culturally diverse women, Seary says. And for all impacted women, the repercussions go well beyond receiving a smaller paycheck.
“It plays out through women’s lives and has really devastating consequences as they get into their 50s and 60s,” she says. “The retirement plans around the world are all based on what you earned through your whole life, and that pool of money that women have at the end of their career is dramatically different than men’s.”
Know Your Worth, and Negotiate
So how could women best combat biases leading to gender pay inequality? Seary, whose company runs the Bravo leadership program for women in procurement and supply chain, says being aware of the issue and shining a light on it are important.
But it’s even more critical, perhaps, for women to know their own worth. There’s much published data on salary scales, she says, but women also need to know precisely what they’re contributing to their companies.
“In procurement and supply chain, you can often quantify how much you’re saving, how many categories you’re managing and what have you,” Seary says. “So, try to build your own business case.”
Once they know their own worth and have the data to prove it, women will be better able to negotiate improved financial outcomes for themselves with their direct-line managers, she says. Confidence-boosting efforts might be needed here, however.
“People who are confident seem to be more competent,” Seary says. “Men do present as being more confident a lot of the time; therefore, human nature sort of puts that forward as being more competent.”
Women can be their own worst enemies at times, she says. Even some of the most senior women within the procurement and supply chain space show signs of “imposter syndrome,” believing they are not good enough.
A boost in self-confidence could help women do more than close their personal gender pay gap, too. It could help them in negotiations tied to career advancement, Seary says.
“The female counterpart may be more than qualified and able to take on these roles, but they’re often overlooked,” she says.
Seary’s company runs a free networking group for women in procurement that shares, among other things, tips for boosting self-confidence. In addition, there are online resources that can help (here’s one).
Reason for optimism
Looking ahead, it’s an exciting time to be working in procurement and supply chain, Seary says. The industry is poised to take on huge challenges, including sustainability. And women have so much to offer as part of diverse teams driving innovation and growth.
There’s plenty of reason, therefore, to be optimistic about progress on the gender pay-gap front in that sector.
“I think the tide is changing and there’s a big awareness about the value of women, particularly with the supply of talent being so limited at the moment,” Seary says.
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