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Women in procurement: making a difference with International Women’s Day


Women in procurement: making a difference with International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we caught up with Debbie Metcalfe, our Senior Procurement Consultant and Trainer to discuss the gravitational pull of procurement and the creativity found within the profession.

What is it about procurement that attracted you as a place to build a successful career?

As with most procurement practitioners I did not make a conscious decision to become a professional buyer, I just gravitated into it so to speak.  However once in the profession I decided to build my career as I found I could add some real value to the NHS Trusts that I worked with. Making a real tangible difference to patient outcomes whilst engaging with the supplier market and internal stakeholders to discover innovative ideas for products and services that would make a real difference for all stakeholder and across all organisational boundaries.   Procurement offers the opportunity to be creative and to network and communicate with many different people internally and externally which I have always found fascinating.

What one piece of advice would you give to women looking to build a career in procurement?

I have found that being brave and being mindful can really make a difference in procurement and leadership roles.

Be determined. Keep learning and focusing on delivering the customers’ needs in a compliant manner with integrity and transparency.   I would also advise obtaining an academic qualification. This is of great value, and will afford you a well-rounded, and educated, view of procurement.

What do you think are the key skills/ attributes required for success in this industry?

To be a successful procurement professional you must be enthusiastic, have the capacity to adapt and change and have the ability to solve problems, whether you work in a public procurement like I did in the NHS, or you work in the private sector.  Strong negotiation, influencing and communication skills are essential.  I have found these skills enable proficient relationship building and management skills for strategic category management and an in depth understanding and knowledge of the supplies service or works that are to be procured.

This year’s International Women’s day theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ – what does this mean to you?

For me ‘Choose to Challenge’ means not being afraid to do things differently, to question and think creatively, especially in the current climate of exiting Europe and Covid.  In fact, we must ‘Choose to Challenge’ if we are to survive, we must change to meet the ever-changing environment internal and external.  For me ‘Choose to Challenge’ is ‘continuous improvement’, a procurement practise that has stood the test of time.


About Debbie Metcalfe, LLM MSc MCIPS

Debbie is a Senior Procurement consultant and trainer at Achilles Information Limited.  Debbie is responsible for delivering EU Procurement training, advice and guidance in both the Public and Utility Sectors, focusing on a delivery programme of both bespoke in-house and open EU training courses.

Debbie has worked in several large NHS Trust in the West Midlands and for two NHS group purchasing organisations at a senior level for over 15 years, having the experience of procuring products and complex multi-million pound services for over 90 NHS Trusts’ in the North West, West Midlands and North Central London. As a senior category manager and Head of Procurement, Debbie has defined and developed EU compliant collaborative procurement strategies delivering millions of pounds of sustained leveraged benefits for NHS customers.

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