The challenging dynamics of women working in sales roles

Article by Mara Vicente, VP of Customer Solutions at Pipedrive

Mara VicenteIt’s 2021 and we are still discussing all the challenges that women face on a daily basis, and this is no different for those working in sales roles. 

Women’s participation in this industry stretches far back, with it acting for some as a springboard to propel their careers in global corporations or become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

However, for many women there continue to be hurdles and ongoing struggles that are disadvantaging them against their male counterparts and preventing many from fulfilling their potential.

So what are the key issues?

Gender bias: it still is one of the biggest challenges for female entrepreneurship

In October 2020, data from Pitchbook reported that Venture Capital funding for companies founded by women dropped by $434m in the third quarter, its lowest level in three years. This has largely been down to the majority of female led startups being in the retail, travel and media space, which have found it more challenging compared to other sectors such as fintech and enterprise software during the pandemic.

Furthermore, a study by Vistaprint established that British female business owners are impacted more by failure, when polled against men. With more than two-thirds of female respondents admitting they found it hard to bounce back from economic setbacks, gender bias and the general lack of support when in recovery mode.

As such there is this continued misconception within both sales and other industries that women are not as trustworthy as men, to deliver strong business results. Yet there is no evidence that female-led teams or companies perform worse than their male-led counterparts.

Being stuck in stereotypes

Stereotypes are mental shortcuts that often lead us to make biased assumptions that disadvantage women at work.

Stereotypically women are seen as nurturers, whose success is attributed more to “being lucky”, not strong and ambitious professionals whose achievements are based on their excellent skillset. This leads us to overestimate men’s and underestimate women’s performance.

On a daily basis women are facing an uphill battle to prove themselves against men in sales and the wider workplace. Take for example management training, if you are a woman that was never invited for panels such as “Techniques of sales for women” or “Sales training – for women”, well, you can consider yourself a very lucky one.

Techniques of sales should be for everyone that wants to work in the sales industry, being a woman, man or any other gender. We are women and we work with sales. Do we need courses and improving our knowledge? Yes, of course, but let’s drop the bias and instead focus on how we can collectively develop as one to improve as sales professionals.

The old, but gold, wage gap

On average in the EU, women earn more than 14% less for the same job, which means that they have to work 51 extra days to meet their male colleague’s salary. Research from Payscale showed that in 2020, in the sales industry, women received $0.81 for every $1 earned by a man.

At the same time, a lot of research shows that women usually achieve better results than men in positions directly linked to sales, as they are able to read customers’ characteristics more quickly, thus knowing the best ways to approach them.

The lack of believing in ourselves is the main factor that continues to fuel this behaviour. There also needs to be a unified approach from world leaders to push through legislative changes and dispel inaccuracies that are harming female progression.

So as we continue to press for a brighter and more balanced future, what are some actions that can be taken now:

  1. Negotiate your salary to what you feel you should be paid. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask your leader about any wage gaps. Honesty and transparency are always appreciated;
  2. Keep a track record of your success to demonstrate your achievements at performance reviews. Remember: truth has no answer!
  3. When interrupted during your speech, don’t resent it. Pause, look for silence and finish your pitch. Afterwards you can always kindly ask people not to interrupt you again. Don’t give up on talking and contributing, because that’s also your space;
  4. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and question what you don’t agree with.
  5. Celebrate each other’s workplace successes and support your colleagues.

Above all that, trust in your work and your abilities in sales. Push yourself to always keep learning in an industry that is both demanding but equally rewarding.

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