Sales gives women a route to the top

2005

Women increasingly see the sales route as one of the best ways into top management, with two-thirds believing it gives them the same chance of progressing to a senior position as male colleagues.

According to the survey of nearly 200 British women working in sales, more than eight out of 10 believed that there were advantages in their jobs to being female.

"Women always seem get meetings that men don't," said one interviewee in the IT sector. "Perhaps we're just better at dealing with people than the guys or perhaps it's down to curiosity because we're still relatively thin on the ground."

The survey, which was carried out for specialist sales recruiter, Bladen Taylor, found that fewer than a third of women surveyed felt their industry offered equal opportunities to both men and women.

Yet when asked specifically about sales roles, two-thirds believed that they had the same chance of progressing to a managerial position as a male colleague.

"I work in a male dominated industry," said one respondent in the construction sector, "but any woman who shows that they know their business can be just as successful here as a man, if not more so."

The survey also suggests that if there is a problem in male dominated industries, it may not be lack of opportunity within, but rather the fact that perceptions of discrimination deter so many able female sales professionals from considering them.

"We often find that female sales specialists are snapped up by companies in industries with a male-oriented culture, because they stand out from the crowd," says Damian Eyre, managing director of Bladen Taylor.

"However there is always a shortage of women coming up through the ranks because not enough are entering these areas in the first place."

A substantial number of those taking part in the survey believed that the sales sector could do more to encourage both the recruitment and retention of women, with four out of 10 advocating the introduction of specific benefits to reward packages.

A similar proportion would like to see more formal career breaks to allow for pregnancy and bringing up a young family, while almost half called for flexible hours that would allow them to work around family commitments.

However, despite calls for such measures, fewer than a quarter thought that they would have any significant effect on their career development.

"Let's face it," said one female sales professional, "sales is the one area where your gender really doesn't matter. All that really counts is delivering results.

"But if you think you can do that without giving 100 per cent commitment, whether you are a man or a woman, then you are in for a very nasty shock."