Last quarter I was tasked with curating a panel of 3 female Chief Revenue Officers. The task seemed simple enough, but as I scoured the universe of sales leadership in New York City, one fact was plainly obvious: the almost complete lack of female CROs in our ecosystem.
While companies in recent years have done much to improve gender diversity at the junior level, we continue to see attrition as women advance through sales ranks. According to a report by DiscoverOrg, 31% of entry-level sales reps are female. However, this percentage decreases to 26% at the middle management layer, and further decreases to 13% at the sales executive level. Given these statistics, the lack of female CROs is no surprise.
If cash is king and women are statistically more likely to achieve quota than their male colleagues, why don’t we see more women in the C-suite? Based on our work, we believe firms should focus on two main areas as they address gender diversity in sales. First, in order to address the lack of female CROs, companies should continue to aim for gender parity at the entry-level by improving recruiting strategies and convincing more women that a career in sales is a worthwhile dedication. There are two main steps to consider from a recruiting standpoint:
1. Ensure Job Descriptions Are Free of Biased Language, And Only Include Qualifications That Are Truly Important To Success In The Role. Per one widely cited internal study conducted by Hewlett-Packard, women are only inclined to apply for a role if they are 100% qualified per the job description. By contrast, men are likely to apply even if they only meet 60% of the listed requirements. As such, firms should be careful about including a laundry list of qualifications in a job description, while also keeping an open mind to a more diverse set of backgrounds. For example, focus less on general “years of experience” and more on tangible data such as experience selling into a certain decision maker. Furthermore, the unintended consequences of misworded job descriptions are exacerbated in sales, where descriptions are more likely to include masculine language, such as “aggressive” or “assertive.” Such language can discourage female applicants, and therefore it is essential that sales job descriptions remain gender-neutral. For more information specifically on which common sales hire traits are overvalued, see our previous blog post on the topic here.
2. Consider Utilizing Blind / Digital Recruiting Platforms, And Have Clear Recruiting Goals. “Intelligent Recruiting” has increasingly important implications for both recruiting efficiency and diversity. Companies have a variety of resources available now to screen applicants more quickly, and do so in a non-biased fashion. This is especially significant within the context of setting “SMART” goals and determining appropriate funnel metrics. For example, if the goal is to achieve 50 / 50 gender equality at the junior sales level, and that would entail hiring 30 female reps, be cognizant of setting the right goals for interviewing and screening based on your recruiting metrics. Essentially, the key step will be to back-solve for the firm’s unique funnel to ensure that the right numbers are progressing through the recruiting process (see visual below). More advice on building diverse sales teams is also discussed in our podcast conversation earlier this year with Amber Banks from Justworks.
Second, following the recruitment stage, companies should also ensure that they are creating a culture that retains women at various leadership levels so to ultimately address the lack of female CROs. Two ways to achieve this are the following:
1. Create A Community Within A Community And Foster Strong Mentor Relationships. One factor that contributes to attrition across both sales and non-sales positions is the lack support from a direct supervisor and a shortage of mentoring for young female employees. One way to ameliorate these relational issues is to create a community within a community specifically for women in sales. These types of organizations provide a unique and confidential platform while also providing a favorable culture for growth and retention. On a more individual basis, better coaching and mentoring, whether from a direct manager or not, also has a meaningful impact on employee satisfaction. If your organization is still small, encourage members of the team to attend networking events or communities such as Women in Sales where they can hear and connect directly with female sales leaders.
2. Focus On Educating The Broader Team. Along with fostering a community of women in sales, it is equally important to ensure that the broader firm is also educated regarding the company’s gender diversity goals. For example, many individuals may not be fully aware of the demands of maternity leave and its implications. Including the broader team in these types of conversations will help to ensure that the culture of diversity is fully embedded in the organization.
Though there are many things that need to be done to help close the gap here, we firming believe that by being thoughtful and methodical about filling the candidate funnel with diverse candidates, and then cultivating and retaining top talent by creating opportunities for career growth and mentorship, we will see an increase in females at the executive level.
If you liked “Sales Diversity: The Lack Of Female CROs” and want to read more content from the Bowery Capital Team, check out other relevant posts from the Bowery Capital Blog. Special thanks to Meha Patel for her contribution and work on this post.
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