As EMEAI regional purchasing director at Dow Chemical John Everett provided leadership for 100 source-to-pay experts managing a spend of 5 Bn$. His career has included many highlights, including significant M&A synergies, working capital enhancements and digitalization, risk mitigation, category excellence and supplier innovation initiatives.

My interest in Diversity and Inclusion intensified over five years ago. Three examples:
1. In 2016 I researched and published on the topic of Women in Procurement (1). Across the ensuing years, I’ve talked about the subject at several purchasing conferences.
2. At the beginning of 2020, when face-to-face was still allowed, I hosted Europe’s largest supplier diversity event together with four diversity amazing associations and >100 attendees (2).
3. More recently, I’ve helped get the first full certification of an Ethnic Minority Business owned chemicals distributor – an industry sector with a weak diversity ownership track record (3).

But what of now and the future?

Individual experiences over the last 2-3 months of employees working from home vary considerably. For some, it was business as usual – for many, it was novel – and novel can be both positive and extremely challenging.

I’m hesitating to be universally optimistic about the near-term benefits of the COVID-19 disruption on gender inclusion. Yes, the lockdown has obliterated the assumptions that sustaining buy/sell commercial relationships can only be achieved by “pressing-the-flesh”. Similar were the negative clichés around having to keep slackers that can’t equally contribute because they aren’t in hub site locations.

However, unlike previous economic disruptions and recessions, more women have lost more jobs or been disproportionately furloughed (4). As was the case before the coronavirus, and even more vital now, is the need to accelerate the mass availability of low cost (ideally free) child-care options, long-term paternity programs and the elimination of any pay gaps.

In conclusion, and for my ongoing journey: “I” commit to continuous questioning of my potential unconscious biases, searching and acting on inclusion opportunities and raising awareness of the moral, social and business value of diversity and inclusion.

I both encourage and challenge all of us in procurement to do the same.

1/. Women in Procurement – Aspects from an International Survey
2/. Summary of European Supplier Diversity event, 30th January 2020 in Zurich, Switzerland
3/. The very first MSDUK full certification of a chemicals distributor
4/. “Women in the workforce – this time it’s different”, Economist, page 60, 6th June 2020