Coming off the heels of International Women’s Month, it’s important to realize that our work to promote equality and remove discrimination and bias in the workplace is not done. Take the sales industry, for instance: despite the traction that women have made in direct sales (made up of 74% women), only 25 percent of salespeople in the tech industry are women, and that decreases to just 12 percent in leadership positions. From my experience, there are a number of challenges that many female executives still face today in their careers that end up contributing to these gaps.
Gender bias: still one of the biggest challenges for female entrepreneurship
The industry still underestimates women’s ability to deliver strong business results. Not only do women entrepreneurs have lower approval rates for small business loans than men, those who do secure loans receive 2.5 times less money than men, while facing higher interest rates nearly across the board.
Being stuck in stereotypes
Stereotypes often lead people to make biased assumptions that disadvantage women at work. A recent study showed that women have a number of disadvantages due to gender stereotypes, even in everyday work settings. Some of these include the fact that women’s mistakes tend to be noticed more and remembered longer, and that women’s ideas are often overlooked but then later praised when a man repeats it. There’s even a term for men who explain something in a condescending or patronizing way—mansplaining—which underscores how widespread the issue is.
“Let me talk to your supervisor”
Many women have been in a situation in which a client or partner asks to go above their head or “speak to someone who is in charge.” This situation begs the question of why women aren’t seen as being leaders or managers who are capable of handling difficult situations. On a daily basis, women have to prove that we are as capable as men in sales.
We never see courses or webinars called “Sales Techniques for Men,” so why do we see them for women? Sales techniques should be for everyone who wants to work in the industry, not a course full of bias because society thinks women are not as capable of doing the same men do.
The wage gap
The wage gap exists across industries but sales-related jobs are in the top five worst industries when it comes to differences in pay between men and women. Another study of salespeople showed that women reported earning 23 percent less in commission and salary than men reported, with an even wider gap for sales professionals working at only a salary or hourly rate.
While there is still much progress to be made at a societal level to achieve true equality at work, there are steps women can take to advocate for themselves. These include:
- Negotiate your salary to what you feel you should be paid. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to have transparent salary discussions with your colleagues and flag any discrepancies in salary on gender lines.
- Keep a track record of your success to demonstrate your achievements at performance reviews.
- Speak up and say something if you’re being interrupted in meetings. Confidently let the person know you weren’t done and finish making your point.
- Don’t be afraid to contribute your ideas and question what you don’t agree with.
- Celebrate others’ successes in the workplace and offer support to your colleagues
Above all that, trust in your work and your abilities in sales. Push yourself to always keep learning and improving your skills in this industry.
Mara Vicente is the VP of Customer Solutions at Pipedrive.