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Recruiting Saleswomen of Color: What Are You Waiting For?

Diversity and Inclusion

America is a diverse nation. Our cities and towns are becoming increasingly diverse. And as companies take advantage of global business opportunities, they’re experiencing an increasingly diverse range of clientele.

So why are many companies failing to make building a diverse workforce a greater priority?

The fact that they don’t is actually bad for their bottom line. A study by the University of Chicago found that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have higher financial returns.”

Prioritizing women is sales and other business sectors continues to be a challenge for businesses, but recruiting women of color—that’s a greater challenge yet.

By ignoring the need to hire more women of color in sales, many businesses are failing to capitalize on an increasingly important demographic of the American workforce.

Key Issues in Hiring Saleswomen of Color:

Women in Sales: It’s Challenging

The sales field is taking flack — deservedly so — for its poor ability to recruit women. According to Forbes:

“Women represent 39% of the workforce in sales. This percentage has only increased by 3% over the past decade. Not surprisingly, the percentage decreases as seniority increases, with the lowest percentage of women represented in VP and CXO positions. Only 21% of Vice Presidents in Sales are female.”

In a decade, only 3% growth!

What gives?

Moreover, that statistic represents women in general. The growth rate for women of color in sales is less than 3% for the last decade.

Diversity in sales is possible. The National Association of Women in Sales Professionals features a group of 14,000 members with:

  • 29% of the membership being African American
  • 15% Hispanic
  • 2% Asian
  • 11% who self-identified as Other

Women of color want to be successful in sales and other business endeavors, but then they reflect on those statistics. What are their growth opportunities?

Why do women of color experience less sales job satisfaction than women in general — and women on the whole experience less satisfaction in these roles than men? How can today’s enterprising businesses develop a culture based on diversity and inclusion to support women in sales?

GET THE EBOOK ON DIVERSION & INCLUSION: Driving Equality in the Workplace

Here’s Why Women in Sales Are Important

It’s been written of ad nauseam, but it bears repeating again and again…

Women hit their sales quotas at a slightly higher rate than men. That’s 70% for women and 67% for men.

Companies that value gender diversity in their workforce tend to perform better financially than companies that don’t.

According to the University of Illinois at Chicago, “Each incremental increase in gender diversity could result in nearly 200 more customers and a three percent increase in sales revenue.”

Companies who fail to recognize the benefits that a diverse workforce brings to their bottom line are simply missing out on revenue opportunities and a chance to grow their customer base.

Why Is It Difficult to Recruit Saleswomen of Color?

Here’s an unfortunate statistic: “Only six in 10 women of color report feeling a sense of belonging, compared to seven in 10 white women and men.”

Additionally, women of color report less job satisfaction overall than white women in their ability to achieve their long-term career goals.

It’s easy to understand, given how few higher-level women there are in sales in general.

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to identify companies that haven’t prioritized inclusiveness as a company culture, and it’s a turn-off to women who might consider working at that company. That’s sure to have a negative impact on recruiting women of color to the field.

RELATED (Podcast): Building Diversity Into Your Revenue Organization w/ Simmone Taitt

Here is what the statistics say in real-world terms to a woman of color contemplating a career in sales:

Your ability to get into a management role is extremely limited, and your ability to achieve CEO status… well… have you thought about a career in medicine?

It’s not impossible to climb the management ladder if you’re a woman of color, but it’s fraught with obstacles. Oh, and you’ll probably feel out of place and uncomfortable in the office every day you go into work. Still want to apply?

Any business that wants to achieve a diverse workplace environment and recruit more women in sales must confront the challenge of inclusion. What can your business do to foster a culture of inclusivity? And, how you can you market what you do to promote inclusivity in order to attract women of color to your open positions?

Hiring Saleswomen of Color

To create a culture that is attractive to women of color, businesses need to examine everything about their staffing platform through the lens of diversity.

They have to assess whether their job descriptions are written in a way that attracts women — and women of color, in particular.

They need to assess their management team — how diverse is it? Will a woman of color, faced with a panel of all-white (mostly male) interviewers want to join the company, or will that white wall send up a red flag?

These are hard assessments because they challenge long-term hiring practices — they challenge the people currently occupying managerial roles. But the assessments must be made nonetheless if progress is to be made.

RELATED: How to Increase Diversity and Inclusion in Your Sales Hiring Process

Ignoring the need to change your business culture in order to nurture a more diverse and dynamic workforce simply means that another company will benefit from taking those steps you failed to.

Don’t believe it?

“Numbering 5.4 million, minority women–owned businesses comprise 46 percent of all women-owned firms, have over 2 million employees, and generate $361 billion in annual revenue.” (Source)

There are plenty of hardworking, talented, determined minority women out there — and their numbers are growing. Companies that embrace diversity and take the important steps needed to create an inclusive workplace will attract these talented women who are motivated to succeed.

In the end, a company that cannot find a welcome seat at the proverbial table for everyone — that is, with faces of all shades of color — will send a clear signal to the community that it does not value diversity.

And the corollary is just as disturbing: If a company doesn’t welcome people of all shades internally, it may not value its diverse clientele either.

Your customers are diverse. They want to work with sales professionals who share their interests, which is just one more reason to take the recruitment of women of color in sales to heart.

Cynthia Barnes

Cynthia is the Founder and CEO of the National Association of Women Sales Professionals. The former Top 1% saleswoman founded NAWSP in 2017, the nation’s only organization dedicated to helping women sales professionals reach the Top 1% and Dance on the Glass Ceiling™.

Cynthia is recognized as Sales Hacker’s 35 Most Influential Women in Sales. Her insights and unique understanding of what it takes for women sales professionals to excel have made her a sought-after expert on women-centric sales training and coaching, having appeared in over 250 major media outlets around the nation – including appearances in the Wall Street Journal.

She’s a highly sought-after Keynote Speaker with brands such as Toyota, Michelin and many more.

Follow her on LinkedIn, or on Twitter.