I saw some interesting data that surprised me. I worked in technical sales where I expect there to be fewer women, but it’s not just technical sales that finds itself short of women. Overall, women are underrepresented in sales.
Here’s why I think this situation exists and what can be done to get more women in sales.
Women in sales: the numbers
Here’s what the data shows. According to the report “Gaining the Talent Advantage: The Case for Gender Diversity in Sales” by CEB:
- 35% of sales managers said they were unable to find qualified candidates for open positions, yet women are underrepresented in sales as a whole.
- Only 19% of women in sales are in leadership positions—(sales industry has the second biggest gender equity gap).
- A slightly higher percentage of women in sales (70%) make quota over men (67%), and women are paid less than men.
- Women typically stay in their roles longer than men (one year longer).
- Companies with greater gender diversity outperform their counterparts.
Women don’t know to pick sales careers
One of the reasons why there aren’t more women in sales is because women don’t realize that sales is a great career. When you were a kid, if you are female, did you think, “When I grow up I want to be a salesperson?” Probably not. There certainly weren’t any role models, and it’s not like the job description is everywhere. You might have thought about going into business, but not into sales.
Women don’t get picked for sales
Let’s face it. Whether you’re male or female, the same qualities are needed to be successful in sales. I advise my clients to hire salespeople who are politely persistent, optimistic, organized, curious, and creative. It may be more difficult to find women who possess those skills because, if presumably men are doing the interviewing, they may not know how to recognize those traits in women.
I suggest that my clients consider hiring women who’ve played sports since a person involved in sports knows how to lose. A sports background comes in handy when optimism is necessary to continue in sales. I also suggest finding women who volunteer and have led a volunteer organization or subcommittee. Nothing’s harder than leading people who aren’t getting paid; however, someone who’s been successful in a volunteer role demonstrates persistence, organization, and creativity—pretty handy skills to have in sales.
Women misunderstand the job requirements
Some sales jobs do require overnight travel, others don’t. Some women think that they can’t manage a job in sales and also have a family, and this misconception keeps many of them from considering sales careers. The truth is a career in sales with a family is quite possible with some caveats.
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Your choice of spouse is critical. I have had overnights twice a week consistently in my sales career. I did have help from my husband and I also had a babysitter. My husband and I coordinated our calendars and travel schedule so we could avoid being gone the same night. In over 15 years, we only had a conflict two times. One of those times was when I won a sales award trip—my husband, of course, came with me—and our daughter stayed with a neighbor.