Today the world is celebrating International Women’s Day. IWD is an event that marks progress and makes calls for changes that are still yet to be made regarding gender parity. One year ago, The World Economic Forum made the shocking prediction that it would take another 117 years before we achieved global gender parity. IWD’s theme this year is therefore to encourage both men and women to make the #PledgeForParity and help achieve gender equity faster.
It was also recently revealed at the 2016 Mobile World Congress (MWC) that an astonishing 50% of the world remains offline, the majority of this percentage being women. MWC’s focus is to now drive greater inclusion of women in the digital and financial spheres. However, we must also look to the social, economic, cultural and political realms where despite coming a long way many women still remain unconnected.
To help accelerate gender parity in the workplace, attempts are being made to encourage greater diversity and gender-balanced leadership. With women making up half of the talent pool this will only make companies stronger in the modern business environment, especially in what have been predominantly male-dominated professions.
Debra Walton, Chief Product and Content Officer of Thomson Reuters states that “One of the remaining challenges for most companies seeking this diversity and balanced leadership is getting past "unconscious bias." "
With many professions dominated by males, unconscious bias, or the tendency to favor people who look, think and come from a similar background, has resulted in there being so few women in key roles. This assumption has also heavily affected how women subconsciously evaluate themselves, making them doubt their abilities and strengths and deterring them from such industries.
In this way, many women wanting to start a career in a profession such as sales, as the only or as one of the very few women, might think twice before doing so. And women that do face the challenge often think that they must take on more ‘masculine attributes’ or ‘behave like a man’, in order to succeed. Despite their intentions many female leadership programs also perpetuate this idea. The result, unfortunately, communicates that the way in which women work and lead is wrong. The perception of women in such careers needs to be addressed immediately, otherwise it ultimately holds many women back from reaching their true potential.
So what can be done to change this?
To start gearing towards change, women need to reject these harmful beliefs. Overcoming bias and relearning beliefs might encourage more women to consider potential career paths in male-dominated professions. We are already seeing changing perspectives in what are known as the STEM industries (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), with schools, governments and universities inspiring more young women to be involved in these areas. The same can be applied to sales.
Breaking into sales hasn’t always been easy for women. People need to start understanding that women are of just as much value to the modern business environment. For example, while an obvious generalization, it’s often thought that female management styles tend to be more empathetic.
According to Oscar Macia, ForceManager CEO, “a woman’s empathy and capacity to listen explain why they are able to close so many deals. When working, sales reps need to know how to listen to their client’s problems and offer them a solution rather than a product. In this way, women stand out as sales people. By truly understanding the client’s needs and they know how to respond to client requests.”
Lori Richardson also states, “In the sales team it makes sense to have your sales reps represent who your buyers are.”
Therefore, why are there so few sales women when women make up a large percentage of buyers?
The evidence of a balanced workforce is clear; business would clearly be missing out on a valuable resource by not employing more women. The qualities and skills of gifted saleswomen would otherwise go unnoticed. It’s not about singling women out but recognizing that they contribute in different ways than men and valuing this difference.
Here we leave you with some inspirational quotes this Women’s Day:
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are."
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Novelist
"If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude about it."
―Maya Angelou; Author, poet and Civil Rights activist
"It’s within everyone’s grasp to be a CEO."
—Martha Stewart; Founder Martha Stewart Living Onnimedia
"I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard."
— Estée Lauder; Co-Founder Estée Lauder Companies
"Don’t go it alone. Collaborate with others and build community."
—Lori Richardson; Sales Growth Expert
"A sales career plays to a woman’s natural strengths and connection, collaboration and preparation."
—Jill Konrath; Author Agile Selling
"We must tell girls their voices are important."
—Malala Yousafzai; Female education activist and Nobel Prize laureate
"We stand with women by fighting for economic security, protecting access to health care and supporting women’s leadership across the country."
—Barack Obama; President of the United States of America
"The time is long overdue to encourage more women to dream the possible dream."
—Sheryl Sandberg; COO, Facebook