Removing Barriers to Success: A New Sales Culture for Women

The Current Gender Imbalance in Sales

Statistics clearly show men currently occupy about 65% of sales roles compared to only 35% for women. (1) And men tend to reach higher levels of leadership and management faster. This needs to change. 

What could be causing this imbalance?;

  • Cultural stereotypes that associate masculine traits more strongly with sales success
  • An assumption women with families can’t advance careers
  • Subtle biases that cause women to be taken less seriously
  • A lack of diversity in upper management leading to fewer female mentors

While attitudes are evolving, fully establishing equal opportunity will require ongoing effort.

Dismantling Unhelpful Stereotypes

One important step is challenging stereotypes about requisite sales traits. Studies show that both masculine and feminine competencies are valuable depending on the situation. For example, active listening, relationship-building, and empathy are extremely useful when uncovering customer needs, building partnerships, and closing complex deals. 

Companies should emphasise a more well-rounded set of qualities in their competency models instead of prioritising stereotypically masculine traits like competitiveness and dominance. This will help them recognise the potential of all genders.

Addressing Biases in Hiring and Promotion

Unconscious biases can subtly disadvantage women if not adequately addressed. Research shows that both men and women tend to make less favourable assumptions about identical female candidates than male candidates. Organisations should implement structured interviews, use diverse panels, provide bias training, and closely monitor promotion and attrition metrics by gender. Transparent career roadmaps outlining expectations at each level can prevent subjective interpretations from impacting outcomes.

Enabling Flexible Options Without Penalty

While flexibility alone won’t remove all barriers, enabling women to balance careers and family responsibilities is still essential. Having arrangements like part-time, remote or variable schedules can help retain talented individuals. However, companies must ensure these options do not block career advancement opportunities or negatively impact performance reviews and compensation. With the proper support, parameters and culture, flexibility can empower workers of any gender or life stage.

Leveraging Mentoring and Sponsorship Support

Mentors, sponsors and role models who provide guidance and advocacy are crucial for women seeking to enter and thrive in a male-dominated field. However, as few have reached senior levels, these relationships sometimes form organically. When implemented accountably, formal programs pairing experienced individuals with successors and initiatives promoting proteges through advocacy networks can help cultivate leadership pipelines that better represent overall staff diversity.

Developing an Inclusive Company Culture

An equitable culture where all individuals feel equally empowered requires a conscious effort to establish inclusive norms. Beyond addressing biases and stereotypes, companies should examine everything from marketing and brand messaging to internal communications and events planning with an eye for diversity and representation. Leaders must “walk the talk” by prioritising inclusion in their behaviours and decision-making. A genuinely welcoming environment is key to unleashing the full potential across the entire talent pool.

Strengthening Sales Performance Through Diversity

While moral and social reasons justify pursuing greater gender balance, the business case for diversity is also compelling. Varied perspectives and problem-solving approaches help drive innovation and better decision-making. A more representative talent pool also enhances the ability to serve diverse customer markets. By leveraging all available skills and viewpoints, companies can strengthen performance outcomes and competitive advantage in today’s economy.


Significant challenges remain, but with strategic, accountably implemented initiatives addressing systemic barriers at each stage of the career cycle, sales organisations can establish a culture where women and men feel encouraged to achieve their maximum potential. Prioritising diversity and inclusion upholds fairness principles and positions companies to thrive in today’s changing global business environment. Ongoing commitment to progress is key.