Luana Oliveira, Head of Indirect Procurement and Outsourcing at Flora, is our second expert invited to the ‘Special ME – Women in the Supply Chain’ event. She told us that she’s from São Paulo, daughter of northeastern migrants, and always fascinated to discover new countries and new cultures. Luana started early in the business world and accomplished 20 years of career in 2023, with experience mainly in the retail and industrial sectors.

Let’s know the path of Luana Oliveira, Head of Indirect Procurement and Outsourcing at Flora

Luana Oliveira holds a degree in Business Administration from Universidade Mackenzie and a post-graduate degree in Retail and Consumer Market from FIA. She headed the Procurement area at Grupo Pão de Açúcar and Grupo Petrópolis. Now she’s one of the leaders at Flora, a reference company in the hygiene and cleaning sector, with brands admired by Brazilians.

See below the questions and answers of our interview with Luana:

1. How did your interest in working in the procurement and supply chain sectors come about? How was your professional path to the position you hold today

I joined the area through an internship opportunity. I came from an experience “on the other side of the table”, in the Commercial area. I tried other areas, such as Planning and Quality, but really found myself when I had an opportunity with Procurement. I started in the Marketing area, where I could better understood how to create value for the business and, subsequently, I took over the MRO area.

The scenario was one of mergers and acquisitions and haste, and the search for partnerships was crucial. After that I had an opportunity at Services and Technology, which added challenges and a lot of knowledge for me. Today, as Head of Indirect Procurement and Outsourcing at Flora, besides experiencing everything I bring with me, I can contribute to the Products and Brands area, which makes this journey even more interesting.

2. Throughout your career, have you come across situations in which you had to face prejudice for being a woman in a predominantly male sector? How do you act to overcome these gender barriers in your current context?

Absolutely yes. I see the corporate environment evolving, but it still has a considerable way to go to become a gender-equitable space. It’s important to draw attention to this gender stereotype, which assumes a false feminine fragility and, many times, it reflects as doubts about our skills. Assigning the minutes of a meeting to women in gender mixed meetings, sexist comments and jokes, and showing astonishment when seeing women in charge of strategic topics are some of the most subtle forms of this kind of prejudice.

This is also more evident in cases of moral harassment, such as depriving women of their self-reliance without any justification, silencing their opinions, ignoring their presence or leadership, and also in cases of sexual harassment, with the same serious situations. To overcome these barriers, I speak and expose the theme, because I believe that awareness can promote this evolution. Additionally, I believe that taking action is important. In all the companies I worked for, I always took a stand and didn’t accept being subjected to situations like these – which helps to break down these barriers, as well as encourage and support the women around me to do the same.

3. What characteristics of female leadership do you believe can bring positive impacts to the Supply Chain sector?

Regardless of the area, I believe that certain traits of female leadership, such as empathy and their inclusive style, applied in the way they guide, engage, encourage, challenge and acknowledge their teams, can drive such teams in a different way. In the case of Supply Chain, I would add that being multitasking and organized (considering the sector’s plural context), creative and with relationship skills (considering the interface diversity), and finally, willingness to take risks and assertiveness (considering the area’s representative influence in the business), certainly translate into positive results and impacts.

4. Do you have any female leadership references that inspired you throughout your career? Do you see yourself as a reference for other female professionals in the Supply Chain?

I have Luiza Helena Trajano as a reference; and I also admire Cristina Junqueira’s journey. In a more broad vision and beyond borders, I respect and I’m inspired by the story of women like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Angela Merkel, among many other equally strong, pioneering, disruptive and wonderful women – who encourage us to see our value, our strength and our ability to accomplish exceptional things. But there is a huge list of other equally amazing women.

I also think it’s important to highlight some women that aren’t known to the general public, but that made a lot of difference in my journey. I was happily, and I still am, surrounded by great women in the organizations to which I worked, leaders and partners who taught me and teach me a lot every day.

Besides, I have two great examples of women at home: my mother and my sister. My mother is, for me, the most extraordinary woman I know and, without any doubt, the one I admire the most. She taught me a lot about resilience, work, ethics and perseverance, and was my biggest cheerer along the journey. My sister, an equally formidable woman, has always been my great companion and adviser in the challenges of life and career. I want to state it because I think it’s very important that we women know how to look around, to recognize and absorb this force that surrounds us. To identify and value these great “anonymous” heroines who accompany us makes all the difference.

I always try to adopt a posture to value those women who are close to me, stimulating them to study, to aspire achieving their dreams and without allowing anyone to define where they should be.

5. ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) practices have taken the center of strategic discussions in businesses more and more. One of the core points of such debate is the need to attract more diversity to all levels of an organization. In your opinion, what are the benefits of building diversified teams and what actions can be taken to nurture it?

For me, a diversified team is synonymous with a more complete team. The more plural the experiences, lessons and perspectives are, the more creative and innovative the environment will be – and this will certainly translate into better deliveries and results. The way to stimulate this diversity is to provide more opportunities, so the environment can become more diversified and leaders can be aware of their role in this process.

6. A survey conducted by the Robert Half consulting firm indicates that 76% of Supply Chain professionals think that the future of this sector is related to more access to new technologies and more interconnected procurement areas, making the whole chain more efficient. In this scenario, what practices and new technologies have you adopted in your routine to be prepared for this future?

Today, we have access to a multitude of technologies, which help us in the search, research and consolidation of bases and information. Undoubtedly, the path is to take advantage of such technologies to optimize our daily lives, and automate routines and processes (RPA is there and is already a reality), to free up our teams for more strategic and relationship-based tasks. Decreasing operational activities and providing an environment with more purpose, learning and creation is a way to retain talent and, consequently, bring more efficiency and competitiveness to the chain.

7. Uncertain scenarios and instability in the procurement volume were some of the key challenges brought about by the pandemic. The Supply Chain sector had to adapt to the new challenges arising from this global scenario and, with that, procurement professionals had to develop new skills to stay relevant in this market. In your opinion, what are the core skills for the procurement professional of the future?

A grasp of the global economy, a holistic view of the chain and strategic action, along with the use of technology, data and indicators as a support in the study of trends and planning. It involves also relationship and active listening with suppliers and customers, ethics and social / environmental responsibility, and positioning as an agent who can create value for the business.

8. A survey called ‘Women in Supply Chain’, conducted by Gartner, found that women accounted for 19% of C Level functions in supply chain organizations. Although this represents a progress towards gender equity in the workplace, we know that many sectors, Supply Chain included, still require structural changes to make this equity feasible. What changes do you believe the Supply Chain sector must undergo to achieve more diversity and equity?

The first step is to recognize this need and provide opportunities for women to occupy these spaces. I see many women occupying top-level management positions, such as coordination and supervision, and a movement in managerial positions. We must leverage this share for women and accelerate for them, so they can advance and occupy the next layer in the pyramid.

9. Finally, what advice would you give to other professionals who want to build a long-term career in the Supply Chain sector?

The journey is amazing, full of opportunities and very satisfying indeed. I would advise them to study and prepare more and more, as a constant update will be always vital; and don’t be afraid to take risks. It isn’t an exclusively male environment at all; here the woman has a place and a voice. And the more space we occupy, the more strength and more opportunities we will have. A woman’s place is wherever she wants to be!

See you next time! 😉