Why Sales Must Hire More Women

Accelerating gender diversity in Sales expands the talent pool and brings broader business benefits.

The fight for top talent in today’s sales workforce is fierce, now more than ever. This is because the current selling environment necessitates more advanced sales skills to handle a growing number of customer stakeholders, more complex products and services, and lengthier, more complicated purchase processes. However, finding the right sellers and sales leaders with these skills is difficult. Research from CEB, now Gartner, shows that sales leaders across the globe report sourcing quality sales professionals as a top challenge and priority for 2018.

The sales function has the second-biggest gender equity gap of all corporate functions

That same research reveals that women are underrepresented in all levels of sales, despite the urgency to find strong candidates to fill open positions.

“Unfortunately, the percentage of women in front-line sales management has remained flat for more than 10 years,” says Cristina Gomez, sales practice leader at Gartner. “To make matters worse, the sales function has the second-biggest gender equity gap of all corporate functions.”

Make the case for gender diversity

Not only are women underrepresented and underpaid in the sales organization, they also report not having the same opportunities as men in comparable roles.

“Women hold just one in four mid-level sales manager roles, and only one in five sales leadership positions,” Gomez points out.

Investing in women leaders can help to stabilize the workforce and promote further diversity

Gartner found that 91% of men, but only 50% of women, agree that female sales professionals have the same opportunities for advancement as their male counterparts, despite having the same skills and qualifications.

“This is not only a fairness issue, this is also a business issue,” says Gomez. “The success of every sales organization depends on its ability to attract, develop and retain high-performing sales professionals and effective sales leaders.”

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Accelerating gender diversity in the sales organization not only expands the potential talent pool, but also brings other business benefits to the sales organization. Gartner analysis shows investing in women leaders can help to stabilize the workforce and promote further diversity. That same analysis shows that companies with a high level of gender diversity more than doubled their annual revenue compared to their average gender-diverse competitors.  

Prioritize gender diversity

What can organizational leadership do to overcome this challenge? Gomez says there are two key steps sales organizations can take to drive greater gender diversity:

  1. Lead from the top: In order to recruit, develop and retain women in your sales force, ensure senior leadership has made a top-down commitment to gender diversity in the sales organization. This requires two key components — very visible and constant senior support and a strong case for why their commitment is so crucial to your business. Emphasize this effort at critical moments. If diversity is a priority, this commitment should be visible at your national sales meetings, town halls, etc.
  2. Seek input and feedback: Ensure you have a mechanism and process in place to gather and act on candid feedback from high-performing female sales professionals and leaders. To understand why you may be losing high-performing women, consider investing in exit interview analysis conducted by someone outside of HR to capture candid, unbiased feedback and better understand whether there are issues that you need to address.

Forward-thinking sales organizations follow these two key steps to ensure they make attracting and retaining high-performing female talent a priority. And, in rectifying the lack of gender diversity, they are able to capitalize on overlooked talent in the global labor market.

Consider what your organization needs to do to ensure that it too can capitalize on the benefits of hiring more women in sales.

Gartner for Sales Leaders clients can read more in Gender Diversity in Sales Benchmarking Report.