Wonder Women in sales, where are you?

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have asked the women in the office to write an article each. This is written by Chloe Tillman, head of our Sales & Marketing desk. To read the other entries, please follow the links below:

Beate – Diversity, Gender & Financial Services
Kelly – Recruiting women in Financial Services
Mia – Apprenticeships, education & diversity

I am not the first to write about the lack of diversity in professional environments. This is a man’s world… except it is not, and so with International Women’s day due 8th March, I thought what better way to celebrate than to discuss the gender balance (or imbalance) issue in financial sales.

Financial Services only?

Before I begin to address some of the issues that women in financial sales face, it is important to note it is not specific to financial services, but is a problem in many industries. The entertainment industry is a good example. In 2012, Reece Witherspoon set out to change the industry by investing her own money setting up Pacific Standard, a production company which focuses on producing TV & Film with strong female characters. As a result of her beliefs, viewers have been treated to the likes of Gone Girl and Big Little Lies, both award winning productions. Similarly, 2017’s Wonder Woman became the highest grossing Superhero film, knocking 2002’s Spider Man off the top spot. But what does this have to do with Financial Services?

When I joined Fram, I didn’t see diversity as an issue. We were an all female team, bar one, and so “glass ceilings” and “limits” were alien concepts. It was also apparent very early on that gender diversity was a hot topic for many firms, all keen to improve their gender ratios. However, spending more time in and around the industry, and digging deeper, it’s evident that far more work needs to be done in promoting gender equality.

I am by no means the oracle which can give your company the answers you wish for, neither do I profess to having an unlimited supply of either male or female BDM’s, but what I do offer is an insight into the issues women (especially in the sales industry) have faced.

Death of a Salesman or Birth of a Saleswoman?

Diversity - financial services - Fram Search

Sadly, there have been occasions where female candidates have been inclined to take off their engagement rings in order to attend an interview. Not because they want to keep their private life separate, but through concerns that any future decision to start a family will result in not being considered for a role. This sort of behaviour shocked me; do we really still live in this outdated mind-set and do employers understand the implications their behaviour has on interviewees?

In another conversation, I learnt that women who were recruited into all-male environments are often faced with a lack of empathy for flexible working. There was a certain type of behaviour which followed taking time off for family commitments, which left the employee feeling uncomfortable.

Family policies are definitely changing, and hopefully changing for the better. In fact there are more and more companies adjusting their family policies to reflect our modern society. Equally, I have spoken to male counterparts who have experienced the same issues when asking for paternity leave.

It is important to remember that we all have lives outside of work; a good work life balance makes employees happy regardless of gender. It seems obvious, but one common theme when I interview sales individuals seeking new roles, is the search for a better work-life balance. Success isn’t measured by the time spent at work; it is measured by an individual’s ability and productivity at work. A good working environment, coupled with a good level of work-life balance, is what motivates employees to work hard and perform better, and will also create a happier workforce.

Is the equality campaigning working?

As I have mentioned before, I’m not professing to have all the answers. Neither am I promising that if you follow 5 simple steps to changing your practise, female applicants will come flooding. If I could do that, I would certainly be a lot richer.

However, I question if male managers are aware of their outdated views. There is certainly a lot of forward thinking male managers; in fact they are the majority now, though sadly we do find there are still some exceptions to this rule. It is the forward thinking managers that need to champion and be examples for promoting gender equality in the workplace.

Whilst women are currently coming up against outdated views, it is not deterring young women from pursuing careers in sales. In the past year, I have seen a trend of junior female sales candidates looking for an opportunity to begin their careers. Could the problem be an outdated generational issue, soon to be wiped out by a more contemporary way of thinking? Let’s hope so.

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