Espresso LiVE Highlights: Women in Procurement -- Challenges and Opportunities

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By: Sakthi Prasad -- Director - Content

14 March, 2021

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Espresso LiVE Highlights: Women in Procurement -- Challenges and Opportunities
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women in procurement

The following are highlights from the hour-long discussion that also featured audience Q&A. Please do watch the full video here: Women in Procurement -- Challenges and Opportunities  

On whether Procurement is a good career choice for women

Tiffany Sen: I don't necessarily subscribe to gender stereotypes. I think that procurement is an amazing and exciting career choice for anyone. It hasn't taken its rightful space within the C suite, to be fully recognized for the contribution that makes to any company. So the function is up and coming.

Michelle Baker: I do think that the procurement function offers a world of opportunity to everyone because it sits across the value chain of any organization. So whatever your passion, whatever your interests -- if you're interested in marketing, procurement has a role for you, if you're interested in HR, procurement has a role for you. I think procurement sits across all of those functions in a way that no other function really does.

On Suppliers’ Attitudinal Difference

Tiffany Sen: It's hard to know a person's motivation but, of course, I have experienced what I interpreted as perhaps chauvinism or condescension. I have always tried to use that energy to my advantage -- sort of like a martial arts move when someone is coming at you directly with a very strong and specific energy to just kind of shift it. So if someone disfavours the contribution of women, I think they won't be ready for a savvy negotiation point coming from a woman or an innovative idea coming from a woman -- it sort of throws them off guard, and makes them uncomfortable.

Michelle Baker: I very seldom experienced anything that I've felt as an attitudinal difference. So I suppose I've been very privileged in that. If I have felt an attitudinal difference, it's typically been a positive one, rather than a negative one in terms of the outcome that I was seeking from a particular negotiation. So sometimes, as Tiffany says, you know, particularly patriarchal, or potentially sexist behaviour have always been opportunities to change the relationship and the dynamic within a negotiation for positive outcome for my organization, which is always something that I've been been looking for.

On Imbalances in presenting ideas to Stakeholders

Tiffany Sen: I think that sometimes there is a lack of access to leaders when most of the leaders in the company are men, and all the guys go to lunch together every day, or the guys go out for drinks after work, the guys are in the right place to hear more about what's going on to form relationships and have casual conversations, to strategize solutions, and to get more opportunities. So I think that, leaders must try to be more inclusive, and, you know, even a very small, or seemingly innocuous behaviors that I have seen, like, always asking the women to get the coffee when a meeting occurs, or asking the women to take notes during the meeting, is really offensive and makes women want to check out.

Michelle Baker: There are roughly 50 percent women and 50 percent men in the planet. But there are certain things that prevent them from being there in the workplace. So I do think that waking up in the morning and looking in the mirror and saying, ‘what is it that I believe, what is right and fair in the workplace’. And then making sure that you work in an environment that reflects that as part of the change that you as an individual can make. I think that starts at the top. So when we talk about presenting to our stakeholders, those are the kinds of challenges that we could and should be making to our senior leaders, as CEOs, our boards of management, our executive committees, to say, ‘well, what do you feel, what do you as an individual truly believe is right and fair, in your organization, beyond buzzwords beyond lip service beyond, jumping on to something that is currently quite popular?

On being judged as being “too emotional”

Tiffany Sen: Earlier in my career, I did get that feedback that I was too emotional. I think by nature, I am a very sensitive person, I find that I am in tune to people's energies. And I made a very conscious choice to start to really assess my own behaviour, tried to be honest with myself and learn about how I was coming across, but also to learn more about emotional intelligence, and to make sure that I was bringing my best self forward every day when I felt that I was getting very angry or upset to have tools to be able to manage that. And to, you know, just to make sure that I was coming across in the way that I intended.

Michelle Baker: I say, what is too emotional? In full disclosure, I do have a drama background. So for me, it's possible to act a range of emotions, which is very, very effective in a negotiation context. But I think you need to be able to understand what your triggers are? Well, all of us, irrespective of whether your procurement practitioners or not, all of us spend a lot of our time negotiating, whether it's negotiating with our kids or negotiating with our partners. There's a lot of human interaction that says, how we find agreement on whatever it is that we're discussing. And I think to get the best outcome from that agreement, it's really important that you understand your style, and how you can flex yourself, you have to remain authentic to yourself.




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American Red Cross CPO will talk about the Art of Stakeholder Management on Aug 4