Women across the globe are still battling the effects of the pandemic, both at home and at work.
Careers quickly stalled for those required to care for children or ailing parents, causing about 2 million women in the U.S. to leave the workforce in the first year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic — nearly twice the shortfall seen among men. No previous recessions have so disproportionately affected women.
Women began to return to work as schools reopened, children became eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, and companies began embracing a variety of additional benefits — likely in response to the Great Resignation.
But things are still on shaky ground, with 1.1 million fewer women in the American workforce than before the pandemic began. Data shows that it could take a generation to regain those jobs and reach an equitable spread of women in the workforce.
That means businesses have an opportunity to reverse the effects of the “Shecession,” and it’s in their interests to do so. It’s been proven that gender-diverse organizations are more profitable. Sales teams, in particular, can greatly benefit from recruiting and retaining women. While sales remains a male-dominated industry, women in B2B sales roles tend to outperform their male counterparts.
Retention and recruitment go hand-in-hand — think employee reviews, company awards, and social sharing — so companies should focus on both avenues to get real results.
Here’s what to prioritize to recruit and retain more women to your sales team and organization.
Establish Realistic Goals
Women won’t apply to your jobs if they don’t see women holding leadership positions — it signals to them that you don’t prioritize female promotions and career growth. “You’ve got to put butts in seats in places that matter for other women to think they can get there,” says Carolyn Murray, a senior account executive at ZoomInfo.
Address your representation gaps and set measurable goals for recruitment and retention. Base your goals on your current situation: Is your sales team mostly men? Are women employed in all the different positions on the team? Are women leaving your organization at a higher rate than men? Consider these questions, and create a recruitment and retention strategy that fits your needs.
When it comes to sales recruitment, Murray says hiring managers should broaden their horizons. A woman doesn’t need to fit the typical sales persona to be a great addition to your team. And with so many women looking for a career change, interviewing candidates with nontraditional backgrounds can help you secure top talent from industries you weren’t previously able to source candidates from.
Adjust Your Culture
In order to attract women, you need to make sure you’re rewarding the right behavior and hiring people who will promote a positive culture while remaining competitive.
Establish cultural guidelines and values that inspire everyone at your company to work hard and maintain integrity. Evaluate your current sales team, including leaders, and make sure they’re on board with creating an inclusive culture. If you do find individuals who are contributing to a toxic work environment, address it immediately with the appropriate action.
Prioritize Equitable Career Growth
“There needs to be a fundamental shift in how we think about promoting women,” says Hallah Van Leuven, a senior account manager at ZoomInfo. “We could do a better job in our industry, or really holistically, of hiring women into leadership roles.”
According to a McKinsey and LeanIn.Org report, nearly half of entry-level roles are filled by women. But as you climb the corporate ladder, women’s representation decreases dramatically: 40% hold management positions, 36% are in senior manager or director positions, 31% are in vice president positions, 27% hold senior vice president positions, and only 24% are in C-suite positions.
Conversely, men are promoted to manager positions 16% more often than women, creating a “broken rung” in the corporate ladder. To address this, create a list of core competencies for each position that covers what an individual must achieve to receive a promotion. That way, you can monitor each employee’s progress from an objective standpoint and create more opportunities for women to succeed.
Additionally, make sure all managers receive bias training to ensure the performance review process is handled fairly.
Address the Pay Gap
The gender pay gap has remained consistent, with women earning on average 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. Acknowledging and correcting this pay gap at your organization is an important step in attracting women to your team. Run pay audits of salaries and commissions to identify where gaps are occurring and set goals to close them. Be transparent with your current team and potential hires about your pay, commissions, and benefits offerings.
Without your sales team, your organization couldn’t function. It’s important to remind your salespeople how essential they are to your business and acknowledge when they go above and beyond expectations.
However, be sure to praise hard work, not overwork. This can be tricky, especially with sales teams, but praising excessive work sends the message that in order to succeed, employees have to be available 24–7. This is especially stifling to working parents — predominantly women — who have obligations outside of their 9-to-5 jobs.
Read More: Lessons From Leading Women in Sales
Provide Meaningful Benefits
Real, meaningful benefits are necessary to retain women on your team. Paid family leave, generous paid time off, and supplemental child care are all great options to include in your benefits package.
In addition to these benefits, you can get creative with your other offerings. For example, Etsy asks its employees to schedule meetings between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The intention behind creating this “Prime Time” is to give parents time to focus while children are at school, or arrange for child care during those shorter hours. This “benefit” requires no additional company spending and instills a valuable sense of trust and understanding in your employees.
Create Women-Focused ERGs
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a great way to foster inclusive workplaces. These employee-led volunteer groups look to unite groups of individuals by a shared characteristic and create a safe space for employees to authentically be themselves.
ZoomInfo has several women-focused ERGs, including the ZoomInfo Women’s Initiative Network, which works to increase the representation and advancement of women through professional and personal development.
Morgan Anderson, a sales development manager, is one of the founders of the group, and strives to ensure that it’s a place where everyone is welcome.
Our Caregiver ERG is another group that supports women and men juggling parenting while working full-time. Because the pandemic has put additional strain on parents, we aim to support caregivers through community and understanding.
Anderson has also created a separate group for women sales development reps to gather together once a month and discuss work or other shared experiences.
“When people join for the first time, I always get a message back from a new SDR saying, ‘Wow, this is the first time I’ve been in a room with just women in a while, it’s very refreshing,’” Anderson says.
Bake in Flexibility
A flexible work environment has become a new standard and is often a non-negotiable expectation for many job seekers. Lack of flexibility was the number one contributor to women leaving the workforce the last two years, so make this a top priority.
Flexibility can come in many forms, including remote work, flexibility in meeting schedules or time worked, PTO, or even general autonomy. You can incorporate all or some of these into your offerings to attract and retain more women to your sales team.
Advertise Your Adjustments
A crucial step in creating more gender equity across your sales team and your entire organization is to advertise your changes on your website, social channels, and anywhere else job seekers may look to find information about your company. Your career page is a great place to highlight your efforts, and it can help attract more women to apply for your open positions.
Gender equity is something we should all strive for, especially in male-dominated industries. Focusing on these improvements will help you attract and retain more women to your organization and hopefully ease some of the pandemic-related tension that has so profoundly affected women.