Sales has always been a man’s world. And in tech sales, it’s no different.
Despite great progress being made across the tech industry in recent years to diversify the workforce, this issue doesn’t appear to be on people’s radars – yet.
As the first woman to be a director of sales at Softcat, I’m passionate about getting more women into technology sales and through open conversation and effective collaboration, I’m confident we can drive real change.
We all have a lot to gain from shaking up the status quo and breaking down barriers to boost gender diversity in tech sales. And, it turns out, women are very well suited to the role.
Why are women underrepresented in tech sales?
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.
Simply advertising a job as a 'sales' role can be enough to dissuade women from applying due to the connotations attached to the role.
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.
Sales is also notoriously a highly competitive environment that’s often target driven, with many employees relying on their sizeable monthly commission in addition to modest basic salaries. This can cause women to feel insecure about their financial security or performance, especially for those with young dependants.
And for women that do want to have children, maternity leave or extended breaks from the workplace can mean a step back in their sales careers and losing their hard-earned accounts to colleagues, making it more difficult to return at the level they left.
There’s also a lack of woman role models in the sales environment for women who dream of becoming top salespeople or are doubting their place to go to for guidance. Male counterparts may have the answers, but it can be a massive confidence boost to see women excelling in the space.
Now, I may be painting a negative picture of the tech sales environment, but I must stress this isn’t the case everywhere and many women enjoy successful careers in these face-paced and highly rewarding roles – myself included.
But there does need to be change and the time has come to acknowledge things could be better. With small changes, honest conversation and cross-sector collaboration, we can rebalance the books and all enjoy the benefits of a more diverse tech sales workforce.
The power of women’s influence
There is a lot we can and must do to champion women in sales and boost their power of influence within the industry to make them feel heard, appreciated and celebrated within sales teams.
A career in sales can be massively rewarding for women, both emotionally and financially. And we’re very well suited to the skillsets required to build and service long-term client relationships.
Science 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.
So, getting more women into sales at all levels has benefits for females themselves and organisations who will reap the rewards of a more neurodiverse sales team.
Could hybrid working be part of the answer?
According to PwC’s women in work index, COVID-19 threatens to undo all the hard work that has been done to fight gender inequality in the workplace.
With millions told to work from home, as well as the disruption to childcare services and schools, many working mums’ priorities have had to switch, putting them at a disadvantage professionally.
However, with life slowly returning to normal, companies have started introducing hybrid working schemes, much like the one we have at Softcat.
Hybrid working allows employees to fit their work around their personal life while still giving them the structure and stability of office working part of the week.
For women in tech sales, this could be just what they need to thrive at both work and home due to the flexibility that allows them to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
In fact, a recent study on hybrid working found more women than men saw the personal benefits.
Some experts argue that hybrid arrangements can fail if there is not good enough technology allowing the workforce to communicate effectively. However, this is where women in tech sales are at an advantage when working from home, as they have access to some of the best tech systems.
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 on top of their annual salary.
Blazing the trail to get more women into tech sales
At Softcat, we’re working hard to lead the way in closing the gender gap in tech sales.
We have a great sales force, yet we want to continuously increase the number of women applying for tech sales roles and encourage more employees to remain in their roles to become the next generation of female leaders.
That’s why we’re currently hosting female-led focus groups, to discover what existing employees in this department love, find challenging and need for future progression.
Plus, we have a great SDP programme where we look for diversity parity to ensure there are equal opportunities for both men and women when it comes to recruitment, selection, training, advancement and retention.
Subsequently, the impact of our drive for diversity and inclusion within the organisation is hugely beneficial and reflective of not only our staff, but our customer’s environments, too. As a large organisation, our efforts to create more job roles and increase diversity at all levels are a signifier of change for women, which is likely to attract a more diverse customer base and narrow down the idea of tech sales as a ‘man’s world’ even more.
By continuing our efforts with programmes, research activities and reviews of working practices we hope to encourage more women to work and have long and fruitful careers in tech sales for our organisation and other tech organisations worldwide.
We hope this mission will support others in the tech industry to initiate positive changes, too.