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Research from the LinkedIn user network demonstrates that growth in the percentage of women in sales is behind that of women in the workforce as a whole. The percentage of women in the workforce increased from 37% to 41% between 2004 and 2014. Conversely, the percentage of women in sales grew slightly less, going from 36% to 39% during that same period. Getting women into sales roles and retaining them matters: A 2009 study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found that every increase in gender diversity had the potential to result in approximately 200 more customers and a 3% increase in sales revenue. It’s clear that keeping women in your sales team is important.
But what are the barriers to retaining women in sales roles? And how can we overcome them? Here, we take a look at the top barriers and how we can do better job at knocking them down.
Barrier One: Old Boy’s Club
The vast majority of organizations are still dominated by males in sales positions across all levels. To make matters worse, women hold fewer management and even fewer executive sales roles than men. Research shows that women make up just 26% of sales supervisors in all non-retail industries.
How to do a better job: Quite simply, hire more women and promote them. Don’t stick to purely traditional sales channels, make use of social selling and modern technologies. No success driven sales professional is going to stay in a position where there is no room for advancement. If you want to retain great female sales pros, they must see that there is opportunity for them to grow in your organization and gain promotion.
Barrier Two: Equitable Pay and Working Hours
Across the board, women earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by men according to Stats Canada But perhaps even more than this wage inequality, women leave sales positions due to family considerations. For many working mothers, traditional long work days do not fit in with family demands, nor do long periods aways from home.
How to do a better job: Re-evaluate compensation incentives and working hours and be flexible. Consider a sales professionals’ family and personal. Adjust work weeks to include days working remotely and the use of digital platforms such as Skype to conduct meetings.
Barrier Three: Negative Reputation
Do you have a perception problem? Have women been treated poorly in your organization in the past? Do your sales professionals have a reputation for being disrespectful to women? A negative workplace environment or one that is seen as hostile towards women will not attract top female talent, nor will women want remain working in such conditions.
How to do a better job: Create a workplace environment where sexist comments and “jokes” are not tolerated. Be supportive of women who complain about mistreatment and take action against misogyny in the workplace. Your sales reps are brand ambassadors, make sure they are always meeting the high standards you set when they are interacting with clients and other reps alike.
Barrier Four: Lagging Behind the Times
Right now, there are more millennials in the workplace than any other generation. If your organization does not adapt, you will find it increasingly harder to retain top talent, male and female alike. Millennials want to be employed by organizations that align with their personal beliefs and societal goals. Making a difference matters to them just as much as earning a good salary or being promoted. Female millennials, in particular, want a dialogue with their managers.
How to do a better job: Take a look at your company culture and corporate social responsibility goals. Give employees opportunities to take part in volunteerism and create benefit packages that are tailored to the interests of your workforce. Make sure there are open channels of communication between managers and staff.
Today’s female sales professionals add a great deal of value to your organization. They are great at forming connections with their customers that translate into business transactions built upon trust. They are worth the investment it takes to retain them so take action now to hire and retain women in sales and reap the benefits to your bottom line.
About the Canadian Professional Sales Association
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