Under Represented Women In Sales

According to an article in Sales and Marketing Management, written by Cristina Gomez, “… the war for top-performing sales talent has begun. By 2026, the number of open sales positions is projected to grow by more than 3%, putting the pressure on sales leaders and HR teams to attract top talent.”



Despite the urgency to find strong candidates to fill open positions, women are underrepresented in all levels of sales, holding just one in four mid-level sales manager roles, and only one in five sales leadership positions. The percentage of women in frontline sales management has remained flat for more than 10 years, says the report.

Furthermore, women in sales face one of the largest gender equity gaps of all corporate functions, with women earning only 62.2% of what their male counterparts earn, writes Gomez.

According to analysis from Xactly Insights, the lack of women in sales and the gender equity gap isn’t a result of underperformance. In fact, the results showed that women equal or outperform men in several areas:

  • Women achieve 70% quota attainment on average, higher than men, who achieve 67% on average
  • Women typically stay in their jobs for one year longer than men, leading to lower company attrition costs
  • On average, female-led teams are 50% female and 50% male, while male-led teams are typically only 25% female

Perhaps the most startling finding, says the report, is that just 50% of female sales professionals believe they have the same opportunities for advancement as their male counterparts, despite having the same skills, experience and qualifications. When asked the same question, 91% of men believe women are given access to the same opportunities.

The lack of parity in sales is not only a fairness issue, it’s a business issue. CEB/Gartner found that companies with a high level of gender diversity more than doubled their annual revenue compared to their average gender diverse competitors.

“Without a strong and diverse sales team,” Gomez writes, “great products and wonderful ideas won’t make it to prospects, and prospects won’t turn into customers. Sales leaders, all looking for a competitive edge, may be overlooking one blindingly obvious area of potential advantage: more women in sales.”  

Forward-thinking sales organizations are making gender diversity a top priority. To increase gender diversity, companies should lead from the top. In order to attract, engage, and retain women, senior leadership needs to ensure top-down commitment to gender diversity in the organization. 

There are two key components to doing this well:

  1. As a senior leader at the company, make your opinions on improving gender diversity extremely visible (i.e. national sales meetings, town halls, etc.).
  2. Develop a strong case, backed by data, for why this is so critical to your business and enlist senior support.

To do this well says the report, champion pay transparency. In today’s information age, organizations face increasing pressure to provide greater pay transparency to ensure that each workforce segment is paid fairly for similar performance, says the report.”

“Ensure you have a process in place to gather and act on candid feedback on company culture from top-performing female leaders,” concludes Gomez. 

For more information from S&MM, please visit here.



2 comments about "Under Represented Women In Sales".
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  1. Charles Warner from The New School, June 6, 2018 at 1:24 p.m.

    The situation is different in the media. The top sales job in three out of four of the top TV networks are filled by women.  A woman has the top sales job in iHeart radio, at Gannett, and at Facebook.

  2. Vanessa Wergin from Gpac, July 27, 2018 at 7:52 p.m.

    Interesting but this seems contradictory. Women are more correctly underrepresented in the MANAGEMENT roles not the sales role. I do agree that women are under represented in the Sales MANAGEMENT roles but I believe the sales force is more equitable. Why does the author not stick to management and goes back and forth from management roles to sales as a group? This is inconsistent. 

    Just like women in the medical field, or many other industries where women can make a living wage and work less hours, most women like having the liberty of the work life balance that a straight sales role can provide. There is more flexible work hours to balance family needs or outside interests. We still tend to give up advancement over family. Fortunately in good companies, the salesperson can make the money they need and try to maintain balance. Someteimes we make more than management. Management roles should not be seen as some state of Nirvana positions that all should achieve. Leadership is a different set of skills than sales.

    Although I think a good sales manager needs to keep their fingers in the industry so that they don't lose touch, a good salesperson does not make a good manager. 

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