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​International Women's Day 2020: An interview with Deepa Shahani

Posted on March 2020

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Last year, we have discussed gender diversity within procurement and E2E supply chain through webinar. During the session, Peter Lim, Head of Procurement, China at HSBC has shared with us the diversity struggle within the industry.

Now we come to International Women’s Day, what does #EachForEqual mean to the Procurement & Supply Chain function in the Asia Pacific? How do we get a gender diversity in the workforce?

We have interviewed with Deepa Shahani, Principal Consultant covering Procurement & Supply Chain Recruitment in APAC region.

The 2020 International Women’s Day theme is that an equal world is an enabled world. What does that mean to you in the Procurement & Supply Chain function across Asia Pacific region?

Within the Procurement & Supply Chain function, without a doubt organisations are moving towards gender equality. However, women have yet to gain a secure hold on the highest level of function. There is always a noticeable notion that there are certain industries within the function such as oil and gas, manufacturing and engineering which have traditionally been and are still continuing to be more male-dominated especially at C-levels. This needs to change and I believe empowering women or even creating a world where both genders are given equal opportunities would be a starting point.  

Many women have had success in procurement & supply chain, but I believe much of the gender gap in the industry seems to come down to awareness and support systems. The key to more women advancing in the field most likely could be increased with mentoring of young female professionals. That’s when we will be moving towards an enabled world within the function.

Is gender equality a topic that often comes up in conversations with candidates and companies?

Most often it does. Based on multiple conversations with hiring managers and senior leaders, the majority have expressed that gender equality is at the forefront of their company strategy. Hiring managers have seen and experienced real benefits within their functions when they commit to gender diversity. Whether it is greater job satisfaction, more innovative ideas, better decisions and having higher retention rates, these helps the corporate culture and also the bottom line of the company. Hence, when debriefing their requirements or expectations for a role, some do stress on gender equality as a factor that they consider when making a hire for their team. Similarly when having conversations with candidates, oftentimes they have expressed concerns and are careful in picking their next move especially at more mid-to-senior level. This is because they want to be fully aware of the company's culture before taking an opportunity. The questions are usually around understanding the corporate culture and team dynamics to gauge an idea of how diverse and inclusive the leadership teams are. This eventually helps them to see and make a decision on whether they would fit in and grow in the new company.

What role can recruiters play in creating an equal world?

Recruiters can be looked as key agents of change that are attempting to create an equal world. Despite the fact that there are certain industries that are known to be male dominated, recruiters can speak and be consultative to clients and persuade organisations to re-frame their hiring criteria in a way that would promote diversity and explain the benefits around it by showing them market intel and the steps that other companies are taking and its positive impact to the company as a whole.

Moreover, they could seed talent pipelines with diverse candidates for each role whether it is candidates of different gender, race or ethnicity. This will help in having multiple people from different backgrounds in the process which gives companies a wider pool of options to pick from and a higher chance to increase diversity amongst their teams.

What advice would you give to a company that trying to create a diverse hiring strategy?

Driving an organisational diversity agenda is a collaborative effort within a company. For a company to successfully create a diverse workforce, it is crucial that diversity is an integral part of the company's vision. To boost diversity, companies should develop the employer brand that showcases they value people and opinions from all walks of life. By talking about the importance of diversity within teams, getting their perspective and buy-in and engraving those values into the company culture would assist in appealing to a wider pool of candidates who would be more open to joining future employers that value diversity. Naturally, when you start focusing on including diverse employees, they will be able to begin to attract more diverse candidates - it automatically creates the snowball effect which organisations should strive for.

Moreover, it’s not always easy to hire diverse candidates when companies have the intention to do so as there are many structural issues and unconscious biases in hiring that one needs to consider. Companies need to take special care to ensure that the recruiting process is free from biases whether it is age, race, ethnicity that has no relation to their job performance.

Deepa and team have extensive experience in recruiting for Procurement & Supply Chain talent across the Asia Pacific. Speak to Deepa for more #EachForEqual hiring tips.

Collectively, each of us can help create a gender-equal world.

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