Davidson is delighted to welcome Procurement Australia as a proud supporter of the upcoming Top 50 Public Sector Women (Victoria) event to be held in Melbourne in August.

Procurement Australia has a strong history in the public sector and we take a few moments to chat with their CEO Joe Arena about gender diversity.

Procurement Australia has come on as a supporter of the Top 50 Public Sector Women (Victoria) event, why do you think it’s important to acknowledge female leaders within the public sector?

As an organisation Procurement Australia is committed to gender diversity in the workplace.

Created by government for government over 30 years ago, Procurement Australia’s heritage is embedded in the fabric of the public sector.

As a small organisation 49 per cent of the Procurement Australia team is female, including two female executives in the leadership team of four, and three female board directors.

Procurement Australia has created the Let’s Network – Women in Procurement group auspiced by the board and lead by Susan Riley, Councillor at the City of Melbourne. Susan is a leading female in the public sector being the first and only Deputy Lord Mayor for the City of Melbourne.

This group encourages the sharing of knowledge, enablement and professional networking for the industry and both the private and public sectors. The network’s aim is to develop professional skills and expertise, and encourage and mentor up-and-coming women in the procurement field through a series of bi-monthly meetings across the states.

Photo of Joe Arena
Joe Arena

As CEO you provide leadership and strategic direction for Procurement Australia, what steps have you taken to encourage gender balance within the workplace?

We actively recruit and promote women in the workplace.

Procurement has traditionally been a male dominated profession and today we are seeing so many talented, dynamic female procurement specialists working with us to deliver outcomes for their organisation.

Procurement Australia also acknowledges and champions female leaders with the creation not only of the Let’s Network group but also a National Procurement Managers Board of which there are currently two female members.

In Victoria we have a CEO Advisory Panel of which we are pleased to have Rebecca McKenzie CEO of the City of Glen Eira participating along with Noelene Duff CEO of Whitehorse City Council. These women are great leaders to inspire our team and we are creating opportunities for other women in the industry to share knowledge and network as well.

The push for gender diversity across all industries is strong but not always effective. What do you feel is the biggest challenge companies face in achieving gender balance at senior levels?

Often it is encouraging women to apply for the positions that have traditionally been held by men.

The intention has to be genuine and transparent. It is important to mentor and encourage women to apply for the senior roles.

In some industry sectors, gender targets are seen as the only way to achieve better representation of women. What are your thoughts on this?

I’m a firm believer in gender targets. I still feel that all things being equal, males tend to get selected. This is a mindset we must change and setting gender targets gives women the opportunity to not only be placed in a senior role but also demonstrate that they are capable at senior levels. I believe that some time in the not too distant future we won’t need gender targets as they would have done their job.

You’ve had a long and successful career in supply chain and procurement, what major changes have you seen within the industry?

Historically procurement has always been filled by people that had little to no qualifications who could demonstrate a competence in getting quotes and processing orders. Although the profession is still relatively immature in various industry sectors I’ve seen greater professionalism that has turned a processing job to a strategically important function in most organisations. Procurement is also moving away from just purchase to pay and contracts management to strategic sourcing. Many procurement professionals are now involved at a more strategic level at their organisations than before.

Procurement professionals now manage categories of spend which includes the mitigation of risk, managing internal demand and supplier performance. Procurement professionals are better educated at tertiary level with some attaining post graduate qualifications. There are primarily two ways that funds leave an organisation; one is paying for staff the other is paying for stuff. Procurement is responsible for delivering value when procuring the stuff.

In terms of female representation have you noticed an increase?

Most definitely yes. There is now a very talented group of female procurement professionals, our own organisation reflects the change. Having said that, I feel that there is a long way to go. From my observations the vast majority of procurement professionals are male. This is something that must be addressed.

Entries for the Top 50 Public Sector Women (Victoria) close June 12.  For more information go to: www.publicsectorwomen.com.au