The procurement and supply chain profession has come a long way. We have advanced into senior leadership positions, lead sustainable procurement initiatives for our organizations, and are generally viewed as value-adding professionals. However, I still believe there is an area we can do better.

Female professionals, on the average, make less than their male counterparts for doing the exact same job. There, I said it.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at what the data tells us.

Here’s a big picture look at salary inequity, not just in procurement. In 1960 women earned about 60 percent of what men made. Fast-forward to 2015 and this number had gone up to 80 percent. Again, women making significantly less than their male counterparts. For women of color, the gap is even wider.

Sure, each year progress is being made to narrow this gap, but based on the rate of increase in the last 55 years, it will be 2059 until pay equity is reached.
The gap also varies by geography. In New York, women’s salaries are at 89 percent, which is the highest in the US. However, in Wyoming this number is only 64 percent.

Each year the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) conducts a comprehensive salary survey for procurement and supply chain professionals. While ISM looks at all sectors (by the way, government administration is usually lowest), I believe their findings are relevant to public procurement. In 2015 the gap between men and women in supply chain decreased. Females earned 11 percent less than males, which was a significant increase from 2013 (29 percent less). Still, there is room for improvement.

Within the public sector ranks, a study by NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement (NIGP) reports that women make 13 percent less than men while serving in the same role. At the director level the discrepancy is even higher: 25 percent. Ironically, the membership of NIGP within the US and Canada is over 50 percent female.

Pay is also often a topic of discussion in my classrooms. Last year one of my undergraduate students said she thought this was, in part, due to women not taking a tougher stance during salary discussions. In her words, “men are viewed as tough when they do this, but we are labeled as difficult.”

So what can we do to be part of the solution? Should we only consider hiring women for our top procurement positions? Hardly. There are countless female professionals that I’ve worked with in procurement that are experienced, educated, and excellent at what they do. They have earned their role as chief procurement officer (CPO) or senior buyer; it was not “given” to them. If decision-makers in our organizations truly consider a broad pool of candidates, then I am confident that many qualified women will be in the mix.

Let’s take a look at our own departments. How equitable are the salaries in the offices we work in each day? Are there things we can do as procurement leaders to make sure equity exists? Ensuring that our employees are paid salaries that are commensurate with their qualifications, not their gender, is a good start.

In short, let’s do what we can to close this gap.

DARIN MATTHEWS, FNIGP, CPPO, CPSM, is the director of procurement for the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has extensive management experience, speaks throughout the world on procurement issues, and has published several books and articles on supply chain management. Contact Matthews at darin@ucsc.edu

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