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The statistics regarding women in sales can be discouraging. Although more organizations then ever have made gender equity a priority over the past 10 years, the number of women who have joined the profession has only increased by a few percentage points.
Further, 50 percent of women sales professionals do not believe they have the same opportunities in their current job or the profession as men do. Yet another indication that the industry has a long way to go is the fact that 100 percent of new CEOs in 2015 were male.
Gender Diversity is Sales is a Positive Thing
Sales organizations that feel ambivalent about gender equity cannot ignore what having roughly equal amounts of men and women on staff does for profit margins. Studies conducted by Gartner indicate that companies with a more gender diverse workforce post twice the annual revenue of those with mostly male sales associates. Men and women bring different skills and attributes to the selling experience, a fact that most customers seem to appreciate.
Sales Faces Ongoing Issues with Image and Pay Disparity
While it might be unfair and inaccurate, the fact remains that many people still have a poor image of the sales profession. They envision boisterous and aggressive salespeople who will do anything to complete the sale and then forget about the customer after making the deal. People within the sales industry contribute to this image problem as much as those outside of it.
The words used in employment ads are a prime example. Because they tend to relate to aggression and the killer instinct, women reading the ads tend to feel repelled by them rather than motivated to apply.
Despite advances in gender equity in sales over the past several years, the pay differences between men and women with the same skill level remains a troubling problem. In fact, only women who work in supply chain management earn fewer equal salaries than those who work in sales. They also earn fewer promotions to high-level positions than their male co-workers do. To attract and keep women in sales, executives must first be willing to admit these issues exist.
How Sales Organizations Can Prioritize Gender Equity
Times have changed and women no longer leave their jobs as soon as they get married or have children. However, this bias still persists even though women stay in sales positions an average of one year longer than men do. That means lower recruitment costs for the company and more stable service for customers.
Achieving gender equity in a sales environment starts at the top. Executives must do more than pay lip service to the idea of gender balance and set an action plan in place to achieve it. For starters, this means discussing it at the most important company meetings as well as asking for feedback on how the company is performing in this regard and how it could improve. Women already in sales positions are some of the best people to give this honest feedback.
Changing an entire culture is not easy. It will require taking a critical look at hiring practices, compensation, and value propositions for all employees. However, the hard work of achieving gender equity benefits everyone both inside and outside of the organization.
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