The Other Lens: Drive Your Supply Chain Cost Improvement Project With A Gender Equity Review

9th March 2016

Posted In: The Topic

Every year, as a procurement, contracts, or supply chain leader you are faced with the challenge of launching continuous improvement projects in your supply chain: engaging your team; engaging your vendors; raising the bar on satisfying your customers – internal and external; improving your costs, quality and cycle times.

Every year you need to innovate. Every year you need a new perspective and a new lens on the ecosystem of customers, suppliers, vendors and team members that you work with all day every day. That is very hard to do.

Words: Jennifer Kenny and Adrienne Murphy

Gender diversity brings a radically fresh perspective and truly engages you to look at your supply chain through a new lens.


What is the Business Case?

There are plenty of case examples of success in these types of projects: GE – who have been committed to Supplier Diversity since 1974 and L’Oréal who have just received the EDGE Gender Seal, and we can point you to many more (see bibliography). There are also plenty of statistics supporting the value of gender diversity and you can drown yourself in data (see bibliography). Suffice it to say that you don’t and won’t know what it means for you, until you do the review and take a look.

We guarantee it will precipitate innovation and will bring you closer to your customers. Demonstrating a true customer focus means having and organisation that reflects your customer base.

To get you started, here are five blueprint Dos and Don’ts for driving continuous improvement in your supply chain with a gender diversity review:


1. Don’t set a measurable goal

Yes, we agree this goes against everything you have been thought for ensuring the success of a project. Remember this is a review, not an outcomes oriented project – yet. But, if you want to really open up people’s creative capability, imposing a measurable goal is not the way to go. The purpose of doing this is to shake things up and expect the unexpected.



2. Change your bid format and your matrix of evaluation

We are not suggesting that you drop your standards but we are suggesting that you open yourself to shaking them up. The value of diversity is that it brings different (and sometimes better) ways of doing things mostly because of a different perspective. Our research shows that leaders who excel at leading diverse team create an environment where people amplify each other’s capabilities – precisely because they are different.



3. Establish the boundaries of the possible future relationship early on

Yes, this one sounds crazy, especially since you have not even agreed to work with them. But remember you are looking for a partner; partners push you to think, develop, innovate and listen. There is a lot more to a fair exchange than money and materials. They may not be equal to your company in terms of size and resources but they are bringing a perspective and a drive to innovate that you can’t (and may not desire to) match. Don’t fall into the ‘we are doing you a favour, you are lucky if you get to work with us’ trap. You are looking to form a healthy partnership not a co-dependent relationship.



4. Tell your team that that they are not allowed to award contracts

If that does not jolt them to think differently – nothing will. The goal here is to clearly distinguish between contracts and relationships. Have you ever worked on a project that went 100% according to plan and never required the magic of a relationship to get it/you successfully over the finish line?

If you focus only on the contracts you will miss the relationship. Most registered women-owned businesses are small to medium sized businesses. They simply are not going to have the same negotiating clout in the marketplace as some of your bigger suppliers do. But what they can do is take more focused care of you and improve your total cost of ownership. Remember “Demonstrating a true customer focus means having and organisation that reflects your customer base.” Tell them what you might like from the relationship and ask them what they can bring to the relationship – you will be pleasantly surprised.



5. Don’t simply invite suppliers and potential vendors to present

Treat them like prospective partners from the beginning. Tell them up front what you are doing. Send them this article; it will scare away the vendors who don’t ‘get’ their essential role in their customer’s innovation and knowledge or perspective transfer process and it will entice and intrigue the vendors who really want to partner and innovate. If it is going to be a partnership it has to include lots of mutual promises; if you are just dictating terms it is not a partnership.



Jones, S.D., Benefits of supplier diversity may go beyond “Social Good” Wall Street Journal, 2006

Katz Johnathan, The business case for supply chain diversity Industry Week, November 2011

The Hackett Group, Supplier Diversity Does Not Drive Increased Costs, 2006

Whitefield Gwendolyn PhD, Supplier diversity and competitive advantage: New opportunities in emerging domestic markets Graziadio Business Review, 2008

L’Oreal is the 1st company in the US to earn a gender equality seal GirlTalkHQ

A Fair Trade like certification for gender equality The Atlantic, 2014, 08


Jennifer Kenny is a speaker, writer and organisational transformation consultant. @WMBMagazine contributor, Board Member @GWLN, Fan of @theelders. Passionate Irishwoman, living in The Big Durian. You can find her@jenniferlkenny or She is writing a book about Amplifying Leadership: How understanding differences amplifies capability. Adrienne Murphy is COO of bizTH!NK, a supply chain expert, and thought leader at the intersection of Supply Chain and the Female Economy. You can find them at