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Article by Louise Fellows, Public Sector Director at Softcat

For many years now, sales has been an industry largely dominated by men, as has tech.

Currently, there are only 39 percent of women in sales roles, whilst only 31 percent of tech jobs are held by women. Combine the two, and the diversity issue surrounding women in tech sales is hard to ignore.

But as the first and only female Director of Sales at Softcat, my mission is to change this by inspiring the next generation of female sales talent and education technology business leaders about the benefits of having a more diverse sales workforce.

Why is sales so male dominated?

The tech sales industry has traditionally been dominated by men and the imbalance becomes greater the higher up the ladder you go. And this has knock-on effects on women when it comes to applying and sticking with a career in sales.

The “bro culture” found in some (not all) sales departments can mean women are left to feel alienated from their colleagues and managers, and this is also often echoed client side, making it more difficult for female salespeople to build a quick rapport or find common ground.

The model upon which most sales departments are based can be also seem daunting on the surface to women. Sales is often a target and commission-driven role which men, by their nature, find more appealing. It can also alienate women who need more financial security in their careers, especially those with children.

When women do follow their dream of being a top salesperson, the lack of role models in leadership positions can affect the longevity of their careers. With no one to look up to, it can be easier to give up than to push harder.

Plus, despite most organisations are improving their policies on maternity leave, a lot of women who are working their way up the career ladder in sales have no option but to take a break if and when they start a family. In a sales environment, this can mean hard-earned customer relationships are broken which can be difficult to re-build.

However, all is not lost and with small changes, honest conversation and cross-sector collaboration, we can all enjoy the benefits of a more diverse sales workforce.

The value of gender diversity in the sales workforce

According to experts, by 2025 women are expected to overtake men and become the “richer sex”, owning 60 percent of the UK’s wealth. And for the most part, this is the outcome of more women excelling in their careers.

And in the sales arena, it seems women often outperform men too. In fact, a 2019 study revealed 86 percent of women achieved their targets in comparison to 78 percent of men.

From a business’s perspective, this can be hugely valuable and those not tapping into the growing pool of well-educated, ambitious and confident women to fill their sales positions risk being left behind.

A career in sales can also be hugely rewarding to women – both financially and emotionally.

Despite being underrepresented, women are naturally very well suited to building long-term relationships with customers.

A growing body of research tells us that women naturally have high levels of empathy, understanding, listening and curiosity skills, outperforming men when it comes to emotional self-awareness – all traits that make successful salespeople.

The role of business leaders

In recent years, there have been many bold initiatives to encourage women into more senior leadership roles in tech. But seeing a female sales manager, director or head continues to be rarer than it should be.

Creating a culture where women can thrive must start at the top. Boardrooms hold the power to set the standards for female representation across the company, providing pathways to success for women and strengthening leadership with new ideas and diverse perspectives that come from having more women in senior positions.

If leaders aren’t committed to guaranteeing or improving diversity, initiatives can quickly crumble. Sometimes, to shake up the status quo some big changes are needed in how an organisation is run, how it hires, and how it communicates. And this can only happen with the backing of those who hold the power and budget to make them.

Looking to the future

There has been some incredible progress made in the technology sector in recent years, but we cannot become complacent.

As we look to build back better from the pandemic, we need to keep challenging ourselves to use all the talents of our workforce and open up the top ranks in traditionally male dominated roles to more women.

While life might not be returning to the “normal” we once knew, there is a unique opportunity to create organisations that better suit and get more out of their talent. The growing popularity of hybrid working is helping staff achieve a better work-life balance, while still offering the structure and stability of the office environment for part of the week.

For women in tech sales, this could be just what they need to thrive. In fact, a recent study on hybrid working found more women than men saw the personal benefits.

With the power of choice and increased flexibility, women are likely to experience higher levels of job satisfaction, which boosts productivity, leading to better results and more commission.

Louise FellowsAbout the author

Louise joined Softcat in January 2021 as the company’s first female sales director, after spending two years as Director of Public Sector UK&I at Vmware and twelve years in strategic public sector roles at Telefonica and its subsidiary UK telecommunications branch, O2. In her role, Louise is responsible for driving Softcat’s Public Sector business by continuing to attract the best talent whilst using her experience to grow new and existing customer relationships and segments with Softcat’s vendors and partners.

 


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