Closing the gap on salary equity in public procurement

Instructor, Supply Chain Management

The procurement and supply chain profession has come a long way. We have advanced into senior leadership positions, lead sustainable procurement initiatives for our organizations, and are generally viewed as value-adding professionals. However, I still believe there is an area we can do better.

Female professionals, on the average, make less than their male counterparts for doing the exact same job. There, I said it.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at what the data tells us.

Here’s a big picture look at salary inequity, not just in procurement. In 1960, women earned about 60 percent of what men made. Fast-forward to 2015, and this number had gone up to 80 percent. Again, women making significantly less than their male counterparts. For women of color, the gap is even wider.

Sure, each year progress is being made to narrow this gap, but based on the rate of increase in the last 55 years, it will be 2059 before pay equity is reached. The gap also varies by geography. In New York, women’s salaries are at 89 percent, which is the highest in the US. However, in Wyoming, this number is only 64 percent.

Each year, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) conducts a comprehensive salary survey for procurement and supply chain professionals. While ISM looks at all sectors (by the way, government administration salaries are usually lowest), I believe their findings are relevant to public procurement. In 2015 the gap between men and women in supply chain decreased. Females earned 11 percent less than males, which was a significant increase from 2013 (29 percent less). Still, there is room for improvement.

Within the public sector ranks, a study by NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement reports that women make 13 percent less than men while serving in the same role. At the director level the discrepancy is even higher: 25 percent. Ironically, the membership ofNIGP within the U.S. and Canada is over 50 percent female.

Pay is also often a topic of discussion in my classrooms. Last year one of my undergraduate students said she thought this was, in part, due to women not taking a tougher stance during salary discussions. In her words, “Men are viewed as tough when they do this, but we are labeled as difficult.”

So what can we do to be part of the solution? Should we only consider hiring women for our top procurement positions? Hardly. There are countless female professionals that I’ve worked with in procurement that are experienced, educated, and excellent at what they do. They have earned their role as CPO or senior buyer, it was not “given” to them. If decision makers in our organizations truly consider a broad pool of candidates, then I am confident that many qualified women will be in the mix.

Let’s take a look at our own departments. How equitable are the salaries in the offices we work in each day? Are there things we can do as procurement leaders to make sure equity exists? Ensuring that our employees are paid salaries that are commensurate with their qualifications, not their gender, is a good start.

DARIN MATTHEWS, FNIGP, CPPO, CPSM, is the director of procurement and supply chain for UC Santa Cruz. He has extensive management experience, speaks throughout the world on procurement issues, and has published several books and articles on supply chain management. Program chair for the new Extension Supply Chain Management program, Darin begins teaching a series of supply chain management courses in February. Contact him at For more about Darin, click here.

This article originally appeared @ American City & County 

Other Publications By Darin Matthews include:


• GOVERN PROCUREMENT MAGAZINE—Darin writes an ongoing column for Government Procurement magazine, published by Penton Media. A publication for the purchasing and supply management field focuses on the public sector. Recent columns are below and you can obtain a free subscription by visiting
Degrees of Success (Fall 2013)
Nobody Does It Better
Staying on Budget (2013)
Sudden Impact (2014)
Como Estas (2014)
Decision by Committee (2014)
Heroes (2014)

EFFECTIVE SUPPLY MANAGEMENT PERFORMANCEA book cowritten by Matthews and Linda Stanley about operational issues such as project management, new product and service development, forecasting, warehousing, materials handling, logistics and international transportation, asset and inventory management and quality. A must-read for anyone newly assigned to operations-oriented issues or who supervises or manages transportation, logistics or inventory management personnel.

LOGISTICS AND TRANSPORTATION—A book cowritten by Matthews and Linda Stanley about the benefits of contracting product transport services independent of the product itself.

“CAREER ROI: GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND,” Inside Supply Management magazine focuses on ways to grow as a supply management professional and the benefits of supply chain degree programs like PSU.
Career ROI:  Growth Opportunities Abound

WAREHOUSING AND INVENTORY CONTROLAn article cowritten with Jerry Gianakis about the examination of the reality of public warehousing systems in an environment often beset by conflicting operating philosophies and departmental needs. By examining the nature of supply operations from multiple perspectives, they provide insight to better understand the operating environment and improve management of inventory processes.


ABSTRACT. As government organizations step hopefully into a new century, among the challenges they face will be the demands of the “New Purchasing” and persistent pressure to redefine the role of the purchasing practitioner in government.

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