Women; the CPO’s of Christmas and of business

Since the dawn of time (or thereabouts) most of the male species have been quite happy to leave activities that involve the procuring of goods to their female counterparts, which actually, when you think about it makes a lot of sense. Women have a good eye for a bargain, they’re skilled negotiators; particularly when it comes to getting good value for money and they genuinely enjoy buying things. With Christmas fast approaching there will no doubt be an army of intrepid ladies laden with lists and credit cards, setting forth to selectively and creatively purchase all the things that go towards creating the seamless, glittering, present filled yuletide that their families expect.

Perhaps this helps explain why more and more women have been stepping into senior procurement roles in leading organisations. Quite simply, if a woman can enter the crazed maelstrom of a Black Friday retail frenzy and emerge smiling with all the Christmas shopping done within budget, what’s to stop her from being highly successful as a buyer, category manager or even a CPO?

The good news is that the procurement profession is tapping into these impressive abilities and embracing gender equality with growing momentum by recruiting more women into senior leadership roles. CIPS got the ball rolling in 2001 by appointing Jeannie Bevan to the role of President. Since then three others have followed suit and we’re sure many more will follow.

There are also a range of organisations across a diverse number of sectors currently boasting female CPO’s.  Dapo Ajayi at Astra Zeneca, Annie Brown at Intercontinental Hotels and Jane Scadding at Wincanton are just a handful of examples. Their achievements should be instrumental in helping to inspire other women to turn their natural talents towards a career in procurement, where expectations of the profession have recently shifted to focus on communication, relationship building and engendering trust, all of which complement the female skill set.

This is not to malign the immense contribution men have made and will continue to make to procurement, merely to point out that whilst men’s talents have been showcased within business for centuries, women are finally starting to have their own innate abilities recognised. There is also the fact that diverse boards have been proven to yield better results and as Alan Day, Chairman and Founder of State of Flux stated earlier this year , procurement can be instrumental in encouraging this by looking at the diversity of the boards of their suppliers and making sure this is considered when deciding who to engage with.

As recruiters it is our responsibility to consider the suitability of the talent we represent without any form of discrimination which is a natural way to promote diversity. Our team will be taking things one step further this Christmas by ensuring a non-discriminatory assignment of festive tasks to their families at home. Three of the girls have taken on the role of Chief Buyer and will be sourcing and purchasing presents for the whole family. One of the chaps has been assigned procurement of alcohol. Another has category management responsibilities for outdoor decorations. Who is the CPO of Christmas in your household this year? Whoever you have elected be warned – only 23 sleeps to go!

About the Author


Founder and Director of Procurement Heads. Level headed, solutions focused, highly experienced recruiter with a detailed knowledge of the procurement market and the ability to challenge accepted norms to achieve effective outcomes. Specialist for the Southern region.

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