Blog: Mind the gap!

On January 19-20, we hosted the annual WION conference. This year fully online. Through this event we bring together Purchasing and Supply Chain Management academics that are working for Dutch Universities and/or Universities of Applied Sciences (HBO). In total this group is more than 100 people (!!), and about 40 of them participated in our 2-day event this year. The typical agenda of WION consists of two guest-lectures, workshops and research paper discussions. This year we had Dr Marcell Vollmer (Partner BCG) on Digital transformation of Procurement and Prof Dominik Mahr (UM) on methodologies for studying emergent technologies in Procurement. Both presenters made it very clear that digital is here to stay and that it is a great opportunity for our profession to become a value generating function.

One of the research papers that got my attention this year was entitled "Gender differences in Purchasing" by Stek (TU Twente). Being a father of two daughters, the topic of gender equality is often discussed at our dinner table. The paper is based upon a survey amongst 581 procurement professionals and shows us that most female procurement and supply chain professionals (in the group 30-59 years) rate themselves lower in procurement knowledge and skills than their male colleagues. Some refer to this as a lack of confidence, or the confidence gap. A surprising finding, however, was that younger women (aged 20-29) ranked themselves higher than their male colleagues, which shows their professional confidence. Our SCM Master students at Maastricht University also fall in this latter category. I’m not sure whether they regard themselves as more capable than their male colleagues, but I can say that I regard them both competent and confident enough to become the Procurement and SCM leaders that you need to solve tomorrow’s challenges.

A recent McKinsey report states that since 2015 we have made little progress in terms of gender equality and that now with COVID19, women in particular are being hit hard. Globally, women have become more successful in 2020 and more than ever they have leadership positions in large companies, however, with a share of 29% there is still room for improvement. The glass ceiling has some cracks, but is far from broken. According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (, the pay gap between men and women in the Netherlands is 14%. If we look at Procurement and SCM, that picture is confirmed. Research by CIPS (2019) shows that there is even a pay gap of 21% in Procurement. Ironically, for women in higher Procurement positions this salary gap grows to 35%! The Gartner Women in Supply Chain Survey 2020 indicates that only 17% of Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCO) are women. European research (PERFECT) states that only 12% of the Chief Procurement Officers (CPO) are women. I wonder if these women were aware of that 35% pay gap when negotiating their salary… I hope they were!

Many studies show that men tend to overestimate their confidence and competence, and women tend to underestimate both. However, their performances do not differ in quality. Several global studies have found that companies employing women in large numbers even outperform their male colleagues on every measure of profitability. Keep that in mind when you recruit young graduates from Maastricht University to become your future Procurement, Logistics or SCM leaders!

Prof dr Frank Rozemeijer