Gender equitable procurement and supply chains


Gender equitable procurement and supply chain strategies involve organisational procurement of goods and services, which are designed to improve gender equality objectives in either the procuring organisation or the supplying organisation. These strategies comprise of socially responsible purchasing initiatives, whereby organisations source goods and services from businesses to promote:

  • the participation of historically disadvantaged groups (such as youth, women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities), and
  • other target groups such as Small to Medium Enterprises or local suppliers.

Some organisations use the more specific label of “gender-smart procurement” to describe strategies that encourage procurement of goods and services from women-owned businesses.

There is relatively little academic research on gender equitable procurement and supply chain processes. The research that does exist, is usually found in the research literature on public procurement and corporate social responsibility. The latter encompasses a focus on people involved in processes of producing goods and services, including people employed in supply chains.

This report, commissioned by WGEA, focuses on the two main forms of gender equitable procurement: supplier diversity initiatives to support women-owned businesses and CSR-led policies and practices designed to improve equality for women employed in supply chain organisations.

Key findings

  • Organisations use gender equitable procurement and supply chain strategies to procure goods and services in such a way as to support gender equality objectives in both the procuring organisation and the supplying organisation. They provide a range of important economic and commercial benefits to society, to procuring organisations, and to female-owned, -led and -staffed supplier organisations.

  • There is relatively little research evidence on the use of gender equitable procurement processes, outside of studies of public procurement supplier diversity programs. However, the available evidence suggests that gender equitable procurement takes four main forms: 
    • procurement from women-owned businesses
    • procurement to support gender equality in supplier organisations
    • procurement designed to progress gender equality in the procuring organisation, and
    • strategies to improve gender equality throughout industry ‘ecosystems’ (via investment decisions and charters aimed at channelling work to female professionals).

  • The research literature identifies a range of practical and traceable actions that governments and procuring organisations have taken to increase procurement from women-owned businesses or to support gender equality in organisations in their supply chain.

How to cite this research:

Oxenbridge, S and Galea, N. (2020). Gender equitable procurement: Insight paper and guide, WGEA Commissioned Research Paper, Sydney, Australia.

Other resources