Today’s forward-thinking businesses are dedicated to gender diversity.
Research shows that women bring critical leadership skills to organizations and we know that companies with more gender diversity achieve better business results. But a sizable discrepancy between the number of male and female leaders still exists. What’s more? The percentage of women in sales management roles hasn’t increased in more than a decade.
So what are the biggest challenges preventing more women from taking on leadership positions? And how can organizations help alleviate them?
That’s exactly what Forrester Research VP Principal Analyst Laura Ramos, Pardot VP Product Marketing Nate Skinner, 6sense Founder & Chief Strategy Officer Amanda Kahlow, and I set out to answer in a recent webinar, “Women in Revenue Speak Out: What Companies Can Do to Attract and Retain Them.” Here are some highlights from our discussion.
What We Know About Women Leaders
A study from Zenger/Folkman shows that women are ranked as better leaders by their peers, reports, and colleagues.
“I think women have that natural path of empathy and compassion,” Laura said. “When we use that, it actually develops and shows itself in wonderful ways in our leadership capability.”
Laura also referenced Forrester research that found company culture is a clear driver for making a company customer-obsessed. If you have a culture that isn’t inclusive or diverse, she said, then your ability to understand customers and be customer-centric will be hampered.
How Companies Can Attract More Women
When it comes to bringing more female leadership to your organization, Nate says the efforts to hire women and pay them equally must be immensely intentional.
“Like my company, Salesforce, we were very intentional about closing that pay gap and continue to make sure that everyone here is paid for the work they do regardless of their gender. It’s a priority for us at the highest level in our company. And that’s being intentional,” he explained.
And for women evaluating a new employer, Laura recommended looking at both explicit and intuitive attributes. Go to the company’s “About” page on their website and see how many executives are women. Reach out to your network and see if anyone you know is familiar with the company’s leadership or culture. But also trust your gut: Does your experience with this company tell you that they really treat women equally in the workplace? Then combine your insights to make a decision.
Top Challenges Women in Revenue Face (and How to Solve Them)
Women in Revenue conducted a survey in November of 2018 to understand the top challenges women in sales and marketing roles face. These were the top three they uncovered.
To address the issues of work/life balance, Amanda says she focuses on setting boundaries.
“I create really strong boundaries with my current CEO and the executive team. This is what I can do and won’t do, and really focusing on I will be productive and results driven rather than time,” she said.
Amanda also recommended clearly communicate your boundaries up front and often. If something comes up, don’t just let it pass, because then you’re showing an area that people might try to take advantage of. In addition, she said that this needs to be done by the executives to set an example since company culture starts from the top down.
Gaining a Seat at the Table
Many women had questions around gaining a seat at the table and being heard in meetings. We talked a lot about building confidence and communicating effectively.
“One of the things I always tell women that I’m mentoring is I use physical exercises, like rolling your shoulders back before you go into a meeting, taking nose deep breaths and going in with confidence—going in very sure of yourself,” Amanda said.
She added that saying “I’m sorry” or including a caveat before saying something won’t help you get heard. If somebody perceives you as aggressive or assertive, that’s on them.
For women who still feel like they can’t get a word in, Nate suggested asking to meet with people who are preventing you from speaking. Outside of the meeting room and somewhere private, give them feedback—discreetly—and you might be able to alert them about blind spots they may not even realize they had.
I also recommend picking allies to help amplify your ideas in meetings and speaking up for male or female colleagues that don’t get heard. For example, saying “Hey, Sarah just talked about that a second ago. I’d like to hear more from her on that subject.”
These are just a few of the insights we uncovered during the panel. Check out the recording here to watch this powerful webinar meant to inspire and empower people everywhere, where we explored both qualitative and quantitative research, in addition to exploring real-world examples of promoting gender diversity in the workplace.
You can also access your own copy of the Women in Revenue report here. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on news and events from Women in Revenue, learn more about the organization at www.womeninrevenue.org.