Updated: Sep 28
I am delighted to continue to share with you the wisdom and knowledge shared by our panel in Part 2 of the recap of our special event, Closing the Gender Gap of Women in Sales and Sales Leadership.
By the way, if you missed part 1 of the recap, head over to our previous blog post and check it out to hear more from our esteemed panel of women in sales leaders!
Sunny Lu Wiliams, President, Techserv Corporation
Rupal Thanawala, Founder and CEO, Trident Systems
Amy Gregory Weber, Senior Director of Sales. Flex Contact Center Enterprise, Twilio
Lydia Clark, Founder and CEO, Integrity Benefits Partners, Inc.
Jessica Rodriguez Hernandez, Deputy Director, Latinas Welding Guild
Gender Pay Disparity in Sales was the next topic the panel discussed. Is it prevalent in the sales industry? Our panel and the data demonstrate, it absolutely is. This issue isn't confined to STEM fields alone. Research indicates that the sales industry experiences one of the most pronounced disparities in gender pay, particularly concerning commissions. For example, according to a report by Lucid Software, “men made nearly 2x the number of commissions as women per sale.” To break that down using easy math, for $100 sales a man earns 10% or $100 commissions on the sale. For that same $1000 sales a woman earns, 5% or $50 commissions.
Sunny offered a two-part perspective on the issue of gender pay disparity. First, she shared a personal experience from her career experiences. In a former role during a salary conversation with the CEO, whom Sunny considered a mentor, illuminated the inherent gender bias in some people. Despite presenting compelling data to justify her desired salary, the CEO questioned her need for that pay based on her marital and family status. It highlighted the deeply ingrained gender biases in salary negotiations.
Sunny emphasized that job titles and job descriptions play a significant role in perpetuating gender disparities. Gendered roles in sales, from inside sales to account management, inadvertently favor men. Additionally, the societal expectations placed on women, especially those with children, further exacerbate the disparity.
Amy, another panel member, pointed out the need for diversity in teams. She highlighted her experience in managing diverse teams and ensuring pay equity. She emphasized that compensation decisions should be based on experience and performance, not gender or personal life choices.
For change to happen, male allies must be part of the conversation. Amy suggested that men should actively participate in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) dedicated to women's issues. This would promote mutual understanding and foster a culture of equity.
Challenging the status Quo.
What Can Be Done to Eliminate the Gender Pay Disparity?
Recent stats unveiled are quite alarming: for over a decade, the number of women in leadership positions has remained stagnant, and the 2020 recession saw women lose jobs at double the rate of men. However, companies with more women in higher roles outperform their competitors by 50%, highlighting a clear advantage to achieving gender equity.
To bridge the gender, pay gap and inequality in sales and beyond, a holistic approach is essential. This requires changes at organizational, societal, and individual levels. While the challenge is significant, active collaboration between all stakeholders can make a difference.
To make a genuine change, the panel proposed transparent salary audits, benchmarking, and an interesting approach to performance evaluations.
DEI is everyone’s responsibility: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging should be a part of every job description and all employee evaluations, making it an essential criterion for raises and promotions.
Revise Job Descriptions: Businesses should critically evaluate their job descriptions and titles to eliminate any gender bias, ensuring they attract a diverse applicant pool. Pay special attention to language around travel for a role.
Active Male Participation: Male allies need to be a part of the solution. Joining women-centric groups, listening actively, and being open to feedback can bridge the gender understanding gap.
Seek Feedback and Mentorship: Women should proactively seek feedback and mentorship. It's essential to voice concerns and be an active participant in career-related conversations.
Promote a Culture of Equity: Business leaders should ensure a culture that rewards performance and experience rather than biases based on gender or personal choices.
The panel also emphasized the importance for women in sales to fully understand CRM structures, being aware of how territories and deals are divided, and recognizing the internal politics. The advice revolved around the idea of staying informed and vigilant about the strategies male counterparts may use, sometimes more to benefit themselves than to promote teamwork or fairness.
Continuing to Challenge the Status Quo.
Pushing for Organizational Gender Equality
On the topic of organizational gender equality, the panel explored opportunities like requirements for partnerships with certified Woman-owned & Minority-owned businesses and the disparity seen in large institutions that repeatedly fail to meet diversity spend requirements. A significant observation shared was that many organizations' diversity managers were older white males, potentially indicating a disconnect in addressing the issues at hand.
Tackling Inequality in Large Corporations This discussion with the panel and guests shed light on some pressing concerns and presented possible solutions. In many large organizations, a cursory glance at position titles can reveal a gender disparity. Senior roles tend to be occupied by males, while junior positions are filled by females. This naturally brings forth questions about equal pay and compensation equity. When such concerns are raised, the typical response from HR has often been vague plans spread out over long timelines, like "a five-year plan." But is this acceptable?
The Issue with Five-Year Plans: A five-year plan, as put forth by one participant, feels like a delay or a stall tactic. It gives the illusion of progress without any real immediacy or genuine commitment to change. This kind of delayed response doesn't address current inequities, especially for employees nearing retirement, Sunny shared.
Sunny also shared that there is a ray of light and there is successful advancement of equity and that some large organizations have taken more immediate and impactful steps. Sunny shared experiences working with multiple Fortune 100 companies, emphasizing that equity doesn't need a five-year strategy.
Alternative Approaches to Advance Equity
What is required? Recommendations from Sunny:
Bravery: The willingness to tackle the issue head-on, in the present.
Profitability Assessment: Understanding how much of the company's profitability can be used to address pay disparities.
Role and Compensation Review: This involves re-evaluating roles to understand their real value and adjusting compensation accordingly.
Sunny and the panel also emphasized the importance of changing the conversation around gender equity. Instead of viewing it as a "war" between genders, it's essential to see it as a collaborative effort to create a more equitable environment. Men are crucial allies in this endeavor and should be included in the conversation.
Friendly reminder, Not All Companies Are the Same
While some organizations may drag their feet on this issue, others have been proactive. One participant cited their experience with a fortune 20 organization, which conducted pay equity studies years ago, resulting in significant salary increases for women and minority employees facing pay disparities.
Gender equity remains a pressing concern in many industries and organizations, and while some make earnest efforts to address it, others remain complacent. The panel's discussion highlighted the importance of active measures, collaboration, and changing the narrative around this issue. As we move forward, it's crucial to ensure that discussions on equity translate into real-world actions that benefit all employees, regardless of gender.
This special event was more than just a discussion; it was a call to action. Women in the professional sphere, especially in sales, are continuously battling stereotypes and biases. But with a combination of collaboration with our male allies, self-confidence, strategic negotiation, and pushing for systemic changes in organizations, the future looks promising.
One way you can continue to make an impact is connecting with Women in Sales.
Women in Sales, LLC is focused on elevating, empowering, and promoting women within the sales profession. In order to realize this vision and create more equitable sales teams in the future, we recognize that everyone needs to be part of the conversation and contribute towards progress.
Through facilitating conversations and workshops focused on enabling sales professionals, we believe that we can help mold the future of sales to be more inclusive.
Women in Sales (WIS) is an open and inclusive space where global members, women, and men, can connect with their peers, seek out job opportunities, share valuable resources, and uplift one another. WIS hosts in-person events, webinars, creates educational content, and provides dedicated spaces to better serve their members including leadership, motherhood/parenthood, and career search resources. Thank you to Women in Sales, CEO, Alexine Mudawar for joining us in Indianapolis to share more of their work.
If you missed our special event, don't worry we've got you covered! You can still grab all the gems
our panel dropped by heading over to our new resources page and playing the virtual RECAP.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on Closing the Gender Gap on Women in Sales and Sales Leadership! Share with us in the blog comments.
There’s always enough!