Reducing the Gender Imbalance in Technology Sales
So let's start by setting the scene. According to the UN, the world population is 7.6 billion and sources put the gender split as 51:49 in favour of males, so pretty equal.
On a micro level, I have a daughter and a son, so our household is equally split (but the girls are definitely in charge)!
At Finlay James, nearly 90% of the business carries a sales target and of those sales people we have a gender split of 60% male and 40% female. If we include the non-sales staff, we are closer to 56:44. Addressing the gender split of the business has been on our agenda for a number of years now and we have made strong progress as when I started in 2008 we had no women in the business!
As for the technology sector my research of various sources shows that between 25 and 31% of the sales workforce is female. Looking back over our own placement data from 2013-16, only 17.6% of our placements were female candidates, which seemed worryingly low to us. In the past year we have focused on addressing this ratio and have managed to increase the amount of female placements to 25%. This is still lower than we would like and therefore will remain a big focus for Finlay James in the coming year.
New research by McKinsey makes it increasingly clear that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters
And research by Sodexo found that teams with a male–female ratio of between 40 and 60 percent produce results that are more sustained and predictable than those of unbalanced teams. http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/leadership/gender-balance-and-the-link-to-performance
Therefore, by helping our clients to address any gender imbalance, we also aim to help improve their bottom line profits.
Why is the number of women in technology sales so low?
Could it be that less women in the population want sales roles? I don’t think so as in other industries the gender split is much more equal in sales roles, for example:-
Media = 50% are female
Retail = 45% are female
Healthcare/Pharma = 46% are female
Recruitment = 51% are female
Professional services = 52% are female
There has been a perception that sales is all about the bull-pen; with women often not seeing themselves as successful or bullish enough to join.
Hiring managers, unconsciously or otherwise, may also discriminate against female sales candidates. Perhaps they view them as being limited by familial responsibilities or not adequately skilled in technology or lacking in aggression.
In fact, women often bring unique strengths to this predominantly male industry, because they are hardwired to be connectors and collaborators and are often talented at networking, multi-tasking and forming long-term business relationships. All traits that are integral to modern sales which is all about trust and empathy.
Additionally, recruiting women for tech sales is often tricky because; the recruiting process can be full of men, hiring managers, short on time, might not prioritise sourcing and hiring women. There is too much emphasis on the job description which heavily favours men and diversity has become such a popular ‘buzz-word’ that the pool of available female talent has shrunk.
How can we help to reduce this imbalance?
- Hiring more women in tech begins and ends with a company’s leadership team. Buy-in from leadership is crucial when recruiting more female talent. Companies should make hiring women in sales a real objective and implement plans and strategies to do this. Articles such as https://qz.com/713048/12-things-employers-can-do-to-improve-gender-equality-at-their-workplace/ can help with this.
- Language used in advertising vacancies and throughout the recruitment and selection process should be gender neutral and unconscious bias training should form part of all on-boarding processes. Workshops can be used to examine and re-write job descriptions.
- Women tend to be more loyal to their existing place of work and consequentially may be more of a passive job seeker. Therefore patience throughout the hiring process is a must. Companies need to be willing to accept a slightly longer time-to-hire metric to recruit more women.
- Think about developing female talent internally. Look at hiring women who might not have the exact skill set but perhaps other transferrable skills. Invest in them through on the job training and development.
- Coach women to aim high and be better at negotiating remuneration packages.
- Encourage conferences and groups such as the recent ‘Women of Silicon Roundabout’ in London which aimed to inspire, celebrate and connect women working in technology. Similarly, an example in the recruitment sector is ‘Women in Recruitment’ which sets out to help engage, develop and connect individual females within the recruitment profession.
- How open are companies hiring women who have previously been successful in tech sales but have been out of the industry on maternity leave or raising a family? Look at offering returnships –these are higher-level internships which act as a bridge back to senior roles for experienced professionals who have taken an extended career break. They are professionally-paid short-term employment contracts, typically of 3-6 months, with a strong possibility of an ongoing role at the end of the programme. Participants take on commercially significant work based on their skills, interests and prior experience, obtaining a supported route back to a professional role.
- Ensure that you have a viable flexible working policy. Part-time sales people can be just as successful. We have a brilliant success story at Finlay James where my colleague Riona returned to work part-time following maternity leave and has hit target this year and has just been promoted to Principal Consultant. You can see her story here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98UeNqi7Mcg. She felt that having less time actually helped focus her on the important parts of the job and made sure she focused on quality!
If you want to research into this subject more I would recommend visiting the below report form LinkedIn.