For International Women’s Day 2023, Amberjack are releasing four blogs exploring four different industries which struggle with gender diversity. Today, we’re focusing on how to recruit women in Sales and Business Development. Find out how to recruit women in STEM in yesterday’s blog.
Sales and Business Development
In Sales and Business Development, women are not the traditional image imagined when thinking of a salesperson. Many people’s initial perception of a salesperson goes immediately to that classic car salesman in a shiny suit and tie. This is exactly what Amy, one of Amberjack’s very own Business Development Manager’s, with 10 years in Sales, alluded to when asked what she thinks discourages women from considering a job in this area.
Amy shared that the stereotypical salesman image is a strong contributor to the perception that Sales is a ‘man’s job’. Supported by Carlin, who said that the ‘boys club’ perception discourages women from applying to these roles, and with under-representation at a senior level, there doesn’t appear to be much combatting this view. While roughly a 50/50 gender split can be seen at more junior levels, this drops to 70/30 as careers progress – let’s consider some of the factors behind this.
Following on from the above, there is a traditional perception regarding the characteristics required to work in Sales. Carlin, Solutions Consulting Manager approaching 5 years in Amberjack’s Growth Team, shared that initially, she couldn’t see herself in a business development environment as she didn’t fit in with the ‘aggressive’ and ‘pushy’ stereotype. Carlin shared that she finds her current role interesting as she works collaboratively with organisations to help solution their recruitment struggles. Coming to that joint conclusion with a company and developing a plan of action to help is an enjoyable element of her role, and this is why she joined Amberjack’s Growth Team. We don’t enforce the ‘work hard, play hard’ environment or ‘hard sell’ which customers rarely respond to in the way that they used to.
Additionally, the general lack of flexibility that accompanies a job in Sales is another significant reason preventing women from applying for these vacancies, especially at more senior stages. Although significant steps have been made to a more equal share of caring responsibilities between men and women, the expectation (and majority of the burden) still falls to women. This makes for difficulties when it comes to sales, which Carlin described as an ‘always on’ role. In fact, both Carlin and Amy both mentioned flexibility as a key issue.
Sales and Business Development can often involve working ‘all hours under the sun’, the expectation of picking up the phone after work, and a certain level of sacrifice. This is harder for women who are often caring for children or other family members, and these things can’t be sacrificed. In conversation about this, a few solutions for employers arose:
- Change your expectations. Life happens, flexibility is needed. Remember that people are working to live, not living to work. You’re more likely to get the best out of people if you show that understanding.
- Be clear on your expectations and policies. If your employees are permitted to be flexible with their hours (as long as they get their work done), make sure this is known and supported.
- Check in with your team and ways of working. Sales is notorious for stressful working conditions. When your employees take time off for leisure, they will worry about what they’re missing and subsequently find it hard to relax. They will be thinking about missing out on commission because their deals will be given to others. Can you help alleviate these stresses for your team at all? Be transparent.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the Sales sector seems to harbor a certain amount of sexism towards women in its workforce. In discussion with Amy and Carlin, sexist encounters (either experienced themselves or by friends) did come up. Over her 10 years in the sector, Amy has experienced a general lack of respect from some colleagues and superiors, as well as the assumption that she was not as qualified for her role. From being mistaken as a receptionist to being passed over for a Global role by a male hiring manager, the impact of these incidents cannot be overlooked. Especially as, with the latter instance, the hiring manager expressed (and joked about!) the fact that Amy was better than her male counterpart at her day-to-day role, and did not conduct a formal interview process, promoting her counterpart regardless.