Essential Support Mechanisms to Develop Female Leaders in Sustainable Procurement

A common conversation in many organisations is addressing the global gender gaps, especially when taking a stance on advocating for women in the workplace. Although the rate of progression has improved year over year, there are still crucial changes that must be made in order to continue to bridge the gap for women.

In a report by SupplyChainBrain, 41% of the procurement workforce are women but only 26% of those women hold titles in executive leadership. Furthermore, only 25% of women in sustainability positions are occupied by women. That being said, organisations must look internally to ensure that all women have equal opportunities to develop and advance in the global workforce, especially in sustainable procurement.

Why Female Leaders Align Perfectly with Sustainability

Women have unique strengths and abilities that position them well as leaders in the realm of sustainable procurement. In an article written on LinkedIn Newsletter, women leaders are more likely to prioritise responsible business practices and demonstrate a deep commitment to social and environmental responsibility. 

Their collaborative nature and attention to detail align perfectly with the complex challenges of sustainable procurement. The article also notes that women tend to approach leadership differently than men as they can often be more collaborative, empathetic, and relationship-oriented.

But, how can organisations attract women in the field of sustainable procurement and provide them with what they need to develop into effective leaders while they balance oftentimes demanding commitments outside of work?

Developing Essential Support Mechanisms

SPLC has the great privilege of working with many women leaders in sustainable procurement on a regular basis, and through our work together, we have observed three essential mechanisms which have often contributed to their success:  

1.     Provide a Mentor    

Surprisingly, many organisations do not have a formal mentor program in place. Mentors are especially important for ensuring professional development and advancement regardless of where the individual’s role and/or career stage might be. 

And while it’s certainly true that women can often relate to other women more easily in the workplace, providing the best possible mentor – one that is dedicated to training and integrating the “next generation” of leaders – far outweighs a gender difference between mentor and mentee.      

2.     Offer Flexible Work Schedules   

For most sustainable procurement positions, a 4-day work week and/or the ability to flex work hours as needed when important and/or urgent home activities arise, will not impact the organisation’s ability to get the work done.   

At the same time, women often prioritise employers who can offer these types of benefits, which can significantly contribute to being able to balance professional and personal priorities.

3.     Encourage Advancement Opportunities

Women can be less likely to advocate for themselves as they progress in their careers for a variety of reasons. They might even not consider an advancement opportunity altogether because they feel they “aren’t quite ready”.  

However, providing them with encouragement to take on a particular leadership role based on past success can build confidence and break down any limits women might place on themselves for advancement.

Committing to a Diverse Workforce

The most excellent part about these mechanisms is that not only do they help support and encourage the advancement of women in positions of procurement leadership, they come at no cost to employers! By establishing these practices, organisations can demonstrate their commitment to developing a diverse workforce, while enabling work-life balance for everyone.

This article was written by Katie Saha, Senior Manager of Learning, SPLC.

Katie is joining the BRAVO program this month to delve into this topic further in her masterclass, ‘How to Lead the Way in Sustainability’. If you’re a BRAVO member, you can find the details for Katie’s masterclass below:

EMEA: 10th July
The America’s
: 17th July
APAC: 24th July

Find out more about the 2024 BRAVO Program for Women in Procurement and Supply Chain here.