Guest authored by Nicola Greenwood, Director, Greenwood Diversity
My hope with this piece was to explore some personal experiences and shed some light on the female experience in corporate Procurement, finding celebration in progress.
I would be remiss to try and talk about progress when we could be walking into Corporate Gender crisis. Yep, I said crisis, and before I explain why, as this specifically relates to Procurement, it’s timely to say that we are on a tightrope.
First, the good news; there are increasing numbers of Women entering Senior Procurement, and representation matters. However, these moderate increases are quickly overshadowed when we start to take a closer look.
Let’s start with the current pay gap. For Female Senior Procurement professionals, the 2020 pay gap is 33%. It’s worth repeating, it’s thirty three percent. Now take a breath.
To understand why this is so very bad, in 2017 this very same pay gap was 15%. We have actually rolled backwards as a function and have more than doubled the pay gap in just three years. At a time where average salaries for the Procurement profession are rising, this is especially concerning. A lack of discussion and commentary on this topic means the root causes are not wholly explored, emphasising the need for more transparency, dialogue and exploration to initiate sustainable change.
Now to compare with the UK national average, where the gender pay gap has steadily declined to 7.4% in 2020. This highlights the fact that Procurement is way off the mark. And it seems that no-one is talking about it. This is not big news. And I think that is the biggest issue at hand.
In 2019 the female senior procurement professional pay gap hit a high of 35%. After hearing this number, and picking myself up off the floor, it was important to me to explore what other factors are affecting Women in the workplace.
The evidence suggests that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on Women, across industries. With Women more likely to be furloughed, have their hours reduced, or lose their jobs, we are sleepwalking into a mass exodus of Women from the corporate workplace.
For Women that are mothers, an unbalanced share of unpaid work and home-schooling is creating ‘burn-out’, negatively impacting our teams, our corporations, our families and communities.
Mothers are also far more likely to be interrupted during paid working hours than fathers. Almost half (47%) of mothers’ hours spent doing paid work are split between that and other activities such as childcare.
My own experiences over the last 12 months certainly tally with the evidence above. More often than not, when speaking to Senior Procurement Women on Zoom calls, many more are dealing with children and being interrupted while working than their male counterparts.
Knowing these issues exist is key; transparency will allow us to work out where the problems reside and to fix them.
This isn’t a female/ gender crisis, this is an everyone crisis:
“McKinsey & Company’s research on the gender gap shows this is not only a feminist issue, but also a global financial one; for example in Europe, $2 trillion could be added to the GDP by 2025 if pay equality was achieved”.
The greater the participation of Women (and let me say, with fair and equitable treatment) in trade and commerce, the greater the boost to functions, teams and commercial and economic growth.
Further eroding this transparency, the UK Governments decision to delay pay gap reporting by allowing businesses a six month reprieve in 2021, is a clear reflection of how Women’s equality is prioritised. My hope here is that businesses will still choose to report, on time, and not waver on progress in Women’s equality.
Gender bias also plays into this picture. After posting a LinkedIn article on this subject, I was in discussion with a man, working in a similar field, who said to me the post sounded like “Women just complaining that they’re hard done by”. This comment was made in the face of significant evidence from the World Economic Forum in regards to the negative impact and experiences of Women during the pandemic. When I pressed him further about why he felt this, he told me he didn’t bother to read the article and was therefore entirely unaware of the facts. And this is where the picture is worrying. Whether or not figures suggest otherwise, he had made an assumption based on bias.
It’s critical that we are talking about these numbers. It’s critical that we are not letting our female colleagues burn-out during the pandemic, nor that women are getting paid significantly less and that the situation is allowed to worsen. Recognition and awareness is where this starts.
Companies need to urgently address the pay gap. Especially within Procurement. There are well documented approaches for doing so; such as transparency in promotions and pay reporting, making commitments to address disparity, and following through with change.
Ask the question – is your organisation delaying pay gap reporting based on the Government waiver?
In light of Covid, are you aware of the challenges your colleagues face? A simple check-in with individuals makes a big difference. Addressing support mechanisms for working parents juggling a career and childcare commitments, is another starting point which would make a huge difference to not only productivity and job satisfaction, but would also positively impact corporate reputation.
And let’s talk about it. Let’s not assume Women feel ‘hard done by’.
Focusing on the facts gives us a baseline from which to ‘do better’. When things begin to change, let’s celebrate that! But for now, let’s take stock of that baseline and let it be its own call to action.