How to Close the Gender Gap in Sales

CSOs strive for progress on gender diversity, but opportunities for women still lag throughout the sales organization.

Women remain underrepresented at all levels of the sales organization. According to the Gartner State of Gender Diversity in Sales report, even though most chief sales offers (CSOs) are satisfied with the state of gender diversity in their leadership team, 74% of female respondents and more than half of male respondents saw their organizations as a male-dominated sales culture.

“While many organizations have made progress with hiring women in sales managers and leadership roles, most women still fall way behind their male counterparts in similar roles,” says Cristina Gomez, Managing Vice President, Gartner.

“Both men and women within the sales organization believe fewer opportunities are available to women. It’s critical for CSOs and other leaders to close that perception gap.” 

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Perceptions of bias endure

Low retention levels of high-performing female talent, particularly in leadership ranks, are one of the biggest indicators of the inclusion problem in sales. 

An overwhelming 66% of women believe their sales organizations struggle to retain high-performing female sales professionals — a concern shared by 56% of the men in the salesforce. To make matters worse, 39% of women believe they don’t have the same opportunities for advancement as their male counterparts with the same skills and qualifications. The perceived lack of opportunity for women makes it especially difficult to retain high performers. 

“As long as these perceptions remain, it will be hard for senior leaders to identify how their organizations’ norms and culture need to change to attract high-performing female candidates and retain female sales leaders,” says Gomez. 

Download infographic: Wanted: More Women in Sales

Close the gap 

To identify and eliminate the outdated policies that are disadvantaging female talent, take a planned and purposeful approach to auditing broad elements of women’s employee experience — from hiring and recruiting to retention, advancement and overall culture. 

To effectively improve gender diversity in their sales organizations, ask these questions:

  • What processes do we have in place to ensure that women have equal access to rewards, resources and advancement?
  • How am I personally modeling inclusive behaviors?
  • How and what are we learning from high-performing women departing our organization?
  • What can we do to ensure on ramps back into leadership for women who temporarily opted out?
  • When did we last audit our promotion and succession practices for inclusion? 

CSOs who close the gender gap can reduce vacancies across territories, connect more effectively with diverse buying groups and capture the performance benefits of a more inclusive culture. 

Read more: What Drives Inside Sales Retention

This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients. Gartner for Sales Leader clients can read State of Gender Diversity in Sales: 2020 Report.

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