Why Companies Struggle With Hiring and Retaining Women in Sales

By: Lia Gibson

Wednesday night we hosted our eighth Next Generation Talent Acquisition Meetup, a panel discussion on how to hire and retain women in tech sales at Rangle.io head office. The panel was composed of Angela Payne, SVP & General Manager Canada at Monster; John Bodolai, former VP and Country Manager at Workday; Jesper Bendtsen, Chief People Officer at Top Hat and Wendy Lucas, President of WenWill Consulting. Moderated by our CEO, Kim Benedict, the panel tackled why the number of sales roles held by women is a staggering less than 20% and companies can fix it. Although the event was packed with wisdom and innovative ideas three main ideas resonated with me the most.

It Starts with the Job Description

A study done by Hewlett Packard found that women will only apply for a job if they feel they meet 100% of the criteria, men will apply if they feel they meet 60%. Right out the gate we are deterring women from applying to our jobs. Kim suggested the use of Textio, a website that scores job ads in terms of how they would appeal to the female job seeker. Job ads are scored in terms of language, layout, use of cliches and other factors that change how a job seeker reacts to the ad. In Kim’s experience, 45% of job ads are mediocre and masculine in tone. Angela pointed out that job ads that use words like superhero and ninja, a new trend in attracting talent, tend to not attract female applicants because women don’t identify with those words.

She iterated that companies need to stop letting their job ads be a hurdle in hiring talented women. Angela commented that many organizations are starting to showcase perks like parental leave, work life balance and even fertility benefits to attract more women to the top of the funnel.

Let’s Champion Each Other, Not Challenge

Fostering strong talent goes beyond just mentorship. Wendy pointed out that a lot of companies are baffled as to why their mentorship programs don’t work. It's because mentorship is so much more than just sharing playbooks Wendy explained. There is no denying that women need mentorship, male or female, but they also need an ally, someone to support both formally and informally. Prior to the panel John did some extra homework. He interviewed women that had worked for him in the past. One women commented on the male cliques that made her feel less included in the workplace at a previous employer. This is not a reflection of the women’s confidence or sales ability, John commented, it is a reflection of a cultural problem. Changing these often deeply ingrained ways would be an uphill battle for one person but having an ally or wingman would make starting the change easier.

Your Brand Matters

The top reason people leave their jobs is company culture. Angela and Jesper both suggested that at the end of the day the lack of women in sales is a cultural and company wide problem. When we do get the women in the door we can’t keep them there. Why? Because companies sell something they aren’t. The more transparent the company, the better the retention rates. That all points back to company values. All our panelists drew on the fact women look for strong leadership, flexibility and growth potential in a company. So why are companies not better at offering it? Building a brand and company values that attract what women are looking for will help change our retention rates and our businesses will be better off. We work so hard to get women in roles but then we stop giving them reasons to stay.  

If you are interested in the panel discussion in its entirety check out the live stream: http://bit.ly/2JBNcQ4

Stay tuned for our next Meetup this September! If you are not already part of our Meetup group follow the link to make sure you are updated on all our upcoming events.