Women in Procurement: Enabling Equality Today and Forever
Happy International Women’s Day!
The theme for 2020 is #EachforEqual: An Equal World is an Enabled World. To celebrate women in procurement and to discuss their future, I am interviewing Amanda Prochaska (Jackson), President and CEO at Global Women Procurement Professionals, procurement fanatic, supplier coach, digital guru, talent developer, author, speaker, advisor, mom, and wife.
How did you get into procurement?
This is a bit of a long story, but I studied international political economics and french in school. As I approached graduation, I was wondering what I wanted to do with my life and started flipping through a booklet on career options for my major. It was alphabetical, so I read through A’s and most of the B’s and I came across Buyer. I thought to myself, well I love to buy things. So, I searched a local french owned company and sure enough, they had a buyer position open. I applied, interviewed days later, and got the job and never looked back!
Tell us about GWPP.
Can you believe that GWPP is the first-ever global organization focused on increasing the value that procurement provides to stakeholders through empowering women in the profession? We were started several years ago as a LinkedIn group and we noticed there was such a need and opportunity to challenge the status quo, as frankly, it is just not good enough anymore. So, we launched GWPP to expand beyond the virtual world of LinkedIn, to understand the challenges through asking the right questions, to take action to promote, attract, and empower women in procurement to live their best careers.
What does this year’s International Women’s Day slogan, #EachforEqual: An Equal World is an Enabled World mean to you in your work life?
Having led some amazing teams in my life, and now building my businesses, I see diversity and inclusion as creating a symphony. Each team member brings their own talents, backgrounds, and experiences. They bring their weaknesses, their style, and their opinions. When building a high performing, symphonic team, you cannot have all french horns. You need a diverse mix of talent and as a leader your role becomes being the conductor, to beautifully play together to produce results.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman in purchasing, and how have you overcome them?
It might be my perspective on life, but I do not remember very many challenges. Maybe I looked at them as opportunities? There were many times that I was the youngest and only woman in the room. I would think to myself, well I am here for a reason, so let’s show them what I got. Or, there were some men leaders who weary about my abilities to lead an older, male-dominated team. My thought about that was, well, here is an opportunity to earn their trust and then I did. At the end of the day, we have a choice to be a victim or a victor of our situations, and I tend to focus on becoming a victor.
What advice would you give your fellow female procurement professional?
Each and every day, we have a choice on how we show up. My favorite example is when you are invited to a meeting. Some women will not say a word in the meeting because they lack confidence, or are fearful that they might say something wrong. But, I love to remind them that they were INVITED to the meeting. They were invited because their opinion matters. If it does not matter, why go to the meeting in the first place? They should work on something else. We have to be able to face our fears and get a broader perspective.
If you could give advice to a woman entering the profession what would it be?
The opportunities are endless and work on the “soft-skills” of influence, problem-solving, collaboration, building trusted relationships, and being gritty. These are the skills of the future so that procurement can add more value through stakeholder and supplier relationships.
How can we create a culture that promotes women in procurement?
It starts with each and every one of us. I had an executive coach tell me once that the best way to change a culture, is to be example of how you would like the culture to be each and every day. Each of us are leaders, even if you do not have direct reports. You are an example to others through your actions, others will join in or you can lead them to join in.
How are women’s roles evolving in sourcing or procurement?
Between expectations of procurement shifting to value-based vs cost-based and automation of the processes, the role of women (and men) will be moving to a relationship-focused model. Soft skills are going to be required for success.
How has being a woman impacted you in your profession?
The biggest impact was when I became a mother. Prior to that, when I took personality tests, I ranked almost negative on empathy. Once I became a mother and received great coaching from some mentors, I was able to build my empathy skills and see it in a different light. Now, while I still have progress to make because that journey is never over, I can lead with my team first.
What are strategies that can help women achieve more prominent roles in their organizations?
There are two tips that I have in mind – 1) be audacious enough to believe in yourself and 2) create champions for yourself. On believing in yourself – it is not enough to have a dream or a goal. You have to deeply believe in yourself, that you already have worth, and that you are going to take the personal risks to get there. You are never a victim of your circumstances and that the risk of regret is greater than anything else. On creating champions – through your work and relationships, you must create champions for yourself. These are the people who will go to bat for you, to chime in to support you when people question your readiness, and those who will be bluntly honest if you are not on course. Just recently my personal champions have shown up for me in the biggest of ways, for very unexpected reasons. I will forever be grateful for them.
How can we empower women in procurement to excel?
The #1 way is to truly support each other. I have met some women over the past year that purposely and intentionally lift up other women daily. They intentionally do something for other women and mark it in their calendars. It is a routine and habit. Unfortunately, there are women in procurement who are threatened by other women and they purposefully do not collaborate or help other women to succeed. We need to break this habit now. By looking for ways to serve other women, by being an example, by collaborating, and by being unified, we can achieve more together. And that is what GWPP is here to assist with.
I read a blog post from Zycus comparing motherhood to procurement:
“Mothers bind the family together just like the procurement department, which integrates the various functions of the organization like finance, marketing , sales, legal, production. [Procurement] makes the organization one single unit and increases the work flow efficiency within the organization.”
How has your experience as a mother made you a better procurement professional?
I mentioned the example above about empathy, already. But, another example would be all about standing up and standing out. My youngest daughter when she was 4 taught me this lesson. She was playing basketball on an all-boys team. One day, she came down in a pink tutu ready to go play her game. My inside voice was like – oh no, she cannot wear that. But, luckily I had some inspiration and thought why the heck not. It is not the goal to fit in. The goal is to be yourself, be kind to other people, and to stand out. My daughter rocked the basketball court that day and had a ton of fun at the same time.
How can the procurement industry better attract talented women? How can we keep them in procurement?
We have such an opportunity to look outside traditional areas for talent that we can bring into procurement. Finance, sales, marketing, customer service professionals all make great procurement professionals. We also have to get better at telling stories. We are very data-driven, but we need to be able to tell a good story, to capture the attention of others outside to procurement to attract and keep them in the profession.
Please comment below, and/or feel free to contact us! Keep pushing boundaries, taking over the C-suite, and increasing the number of women in procurement and leadership roles.
An equal world is an enabled world. How will you help forge a gender equal world? Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality. Find out more about International Women’s Day.
Email: [email protected]