Columns, Diversity and Inclusion, Sales Hiring 0 Comment

The Real Reason You’re Having Trouble Hiring Women in Sales (and What you can do About it Now)

Cynthia Barnes

February 11th, 2019

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Here’s a quick reality check: the competition to hire women in sales is stiff and becoming stiffer.

According to a study by PwC, nearly 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies have established rigorous initiatives to increase the hiring of women in their companies. Of those, almost 62 percent leverage partnerships with diverse associations to meet their goals.

Even more sobering: the global recruitment agency, Norman Broadbent, found that it often takes at least eight phone calls before women can be persuaded to even apply for a position. That’s compared to the TWO phone calls it takes to prompt men to apply for the same job.

While it is easy to read resumes coming in, it is necessary to be proactive and engage in unique strategies that attract diverse candidates. Part of this strategy means making sweeping changes to your social media content, job descriptions, and recruiting materials. You’ll also need to take an honest look at the overall composition of your company’s workforce.

Fortunately, once you understand the most common mistakes companies make in attracting women to sales roles, fixing them becomes easier.

6 common mistakes companies make hiring women in sales:

1. Your Social Media Presence is an Advertisement for “Bro Culture.”

Do your LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook posts contain men-only images and content referring to potential company employees as “he” or “his”? Successfully attracting women sales professionals means ensuring your social posts remain gender-neutral and represent all ages, colors, and diverse populations.

2. Your Job Descriptions Lack Gender Neutrality

How you describe an open position has a significant impact on whether a woman applies for the job. Depending on how gender-neutral your job description is, you may get a succession of 10 men applying for the job.

Sales departments are especially prone to inadvertently alienate female job-seekers just by failing to vet a job description for words like “killer,” “crushing it,” “rockstar,” “he,” “his,” or even phrases like, “long working hours.”

While sales professionals know that our profession can include long hours, adding this statement discourages those with families from applying. Instead, add verbiage that stresses a culture that pays for performance, not face time, and stresses words like “flexibility” and “autonomy.”

If you have men writing your job descriptions, consider selecting women to provide input on your job descriptions.

3. Your Interview Panels Lack Diversity

Potential employees, whether male or female, will feel much more at ease if your interview staff is as diverse as possible.

Before bringing women and other underrepresented job seekers in for an interview, take a good look at your interview panel and ask yourself if the panel represents your company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Also, be prepared to share success stories that include diverse candidates who demonstrate that success at your company is based purely on performance. Make sure you highlight company traditions and activities that have a diverse lens.

4. Your Sales Leadership Team All Looks the Same

Who is comprising your current sales leadership team? Would a woman feel confident stepping into your leadership team as a “team player”? Could your sales leadership team be mistaken for members of a football team?

Have you ever heard “you can’t be what you can’t see”? If it doesn’t look like there’s a path to leadership for women, or that women aren’t represented in the current leadership, it paints an unwelcoming picture.

5. Your Hiring and Onboarding Practices Promote Isolation

Imagine joining a company and on the first day, you’re in orientation with a group where no one looks like you. Imagine the signal this sends. For many women sales professionals, this is a regular occurrence.

Try this instead: when you hire women at roughly the same time, onboard them together so that they can feel included from Day 1.

6. Your Recruiting Materials are an Advertisement for the Culture You’re Trying to Change

Just like social media posts, you should view your recruitment materials through an inclusive and equitable lens. If attending job fairs is part of your recruitment strategy, make sure your representatives and supplies (posters, banners, and tri-folds) reflect your company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Final Word

In my experience with helping companies attract women sales professionals, these six concerns are the primary issues impacting a company’s ability to attract and hire women. But remember, the work doesn’t stop once a woman signs the offer.

Creating and nurturing a work environment conducive to open communication, fairness, and the reduction of implicit bias is one of the most difficult changes to implement, especially for companies lagging behind the diversity movement. To begin developing connections unhampered by gender stereotypes throughout departments, start by completely opening the line of communication between managers and employees.

Your employees should always feel as if they have a safe space where they can talk about things that negatively impact their ability to meet or exceed their performance expectations without feeling uncomfortable or intimidated.

Winning the fight for female sales talent requires more than an attractive initiative. It takes deep insight and recognition of workplace diversity as the new symbol of 21st-century business success, along with a willingness to adapt to a rapidly-evolving sense of the global community.

About the author

Cynthia Barnes

Cynthia Barnes is recognized as one of the most influential Women in Sales leaders and professional development experts in the world. The former Top 1% saleswoman founded the National Association of Women Sales Professionals in 2016, the nation’s only organization dedicated to helping women sales professionals reach the Top 1% and Dance on the Glass Ceiling™. She is recognized by Sales Hacker one of the 35 Most Influential Women in Sales. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Sales Network Detroit Chapter.

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