Sheri Spinks, a prominent member of the Global Council for the Advancement of Women in Procurement, explains how the procurement function has changed and why diversity is more important than ever.
The Global Council for the Advancement of Women in Procurement was founded as a forum to promote the involvement of women involved in the procurement, sourcing and supply chain professions. “We are a global group of over 2,500 members and counting, with a focus on both attracting and retaining women in procurement and supply chain. We also provide a forum for discussion and mentorship and offer the skills and tools women need to empower themselves and advance their careers,” says Executive Secretary & Director Sheri Spinks.
Spinks caught up with Supply Chain Digital at ProcureCon Canada, which she has attended for three years. She argues that’s it’s a great platform for making long term connections. “I think it’s important now more than ever to give a voice to women in procurement. We need to talk about the enhancements and value we deliver as well as the soft skills we possess that contributes to our success in this area,” she comments.
A changing function
“Historically, procurement used to be seen as administrative, process driven, reactive and policy focused – now, we are finally being seen as strategic business partners,” says Spinks. As the function has changed and evolved, so have the requirements of those working in the space. “It’s important now more than ever that procurement professionals have a broad business acumen, both from an understanding and skill perspective,” she comments.
Now, it’s not just qualifications and knowledge, but soft skills such as negotiation and innovation that are key to winning in the procurement sphere. “Innovation leads to cost savings if you can find a better way of doing something,” says Spinks. “An effective procurement or supply chain professional is going to be constantly looking at engaging new suppliers. They’re going to be bringing innovative solutions to the table.”
The key for today’s procurement professionals, says Spinks, is open communication and true partnership with suppliers – “talking about the goals that each organisation has and working together to come up with solutions”. Now, she argues, supply chains can be seen as true generators of revenue by engaging new partners that bring business opportunities. “It’s not just cost,” she emphasises, having just delivered a talk at ProcureCon about total value ownership.
“The onus is on procurement professionals within the organisation to make that shift,” she explains. “It’s about value, and when you look at value you have to consider innovation, quality and diversity. It’s really understanding the needs of your business, the individual needs of your stakeholders, and making sure you’re meeting that need. If you consistently meet or exceed those needs, and deliver value based on their terms and definitions, the business is going to want to keep engaging procurement and supply chain.”
When it comes to the procurement function of today, engaging the right professionals means a commitment to diversity, and Spinks has various commitments to promoting the role of women in procurement. “The reality is that there is still a gender gap,” she says. “I would encourage more women to get into this space, to educate themselves and to be vocal about the value they can add to organisations. Women really do have a different perspective on things like negotiation and relationship building. Generally, we are more empathetic and tuned in with others, we’re good listeners, and we’re great at multitasking – these are skills that are highly valued when looking at a supply chain or procurement role.”
The Global Council, says Spinks, provides mentorship which is vital to women wishing to make their mark in the procurement space. “They can see other women that have been successful in climbing the corporate ladder, taking on more senior roles. We’re also going to provide a forum and database to allow members to utilise best practices from other women – and men, in the spirit of diversity and inclusion!” she laughs. “It’s not just a women’s group. We’re open and both welcome and encourage anyone who is passionate about advancing women in supply chain and procurement to join us.”
A key issue, Spinks feels, is that women are not perceived as ‘powerful’ enough to take on leading procurement roles involving high level negotiations. “It’s really up to women to own their space, be confident in their skills and not let their gender get in the way of them being able to really excel in what they do,” she concludes. “Within procurement and beyond, we are starting to see more employee resource groups and I think those are really effective within organisations so women have a place to go, a platform, and an opportunity to network or gain a mentor.”