Earlier this month, we celebrated International Women’s Day. This year’s campaign theme was a “Pledge for Parity.” As an industry, sales is one that must command change when it comes to gender diversity in top management.

Did you know that gender diverse organizations perform better, attract top talent, and improve employee satisfaction? McKinsey & Company has found that companies with more gender diverse leadership outperform others financially by 15%, while other research shows that women in management deliver 27% higher return on equity.

Since women make up 40% of the sales workforce, this should be great news for the sales industry, right?

Unfortunately, most sales organizations haven’t fully tapped into the power of this differentiator. LinkedIn research shows that only 1 in 5 women in sales holds a role at the VP level or higher. The sales function itself ranks second to last for hiring women leaders.

Not to also mention compensation. Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the largest gap in wages between men and women occurs in the sales industry. With a women’s to men’s earning ratio of 64.4%, the sales industry comes in dead last when it comes to equal compensation for men and women – behind nine other industries.

But, I am very excited to see that there are companies and individuals already embracing the challenge and are making inroads. Salesforce made a bold commitment and is spending $3 million to adjust its pay structure to correct gaps between male and female workers.  The organization Women Sales Pros has built a community of women sales experts with the vision of “seeing more great women in B2B sales.” Cheers to all of you!

With greater gender diversity at all levels and a commitment to equal pay policies, sales organizations can build the most qualified workforce and improve financial performance.

Women bring tremendous value to the sales industry. Women sales leaders outperform in multiple leadership competencies; taking initiative, driving results, inspiring/motivating others, and championing change.  You can see this in action in many of our women sales experts such as Jill Konrath, Trish Bertuzzi, Sally Duby, Joanne Black, and Lori Richardson – to name just a few. They bring a wealth of knowledge,, experience, and leadership to the industry. With more women leaders, the sales industry can become even stronger.

There’s no better time than now to make these changes.  Sales organizations need to do what they can to ensure they are cultivating their biggest hidden asset – women in sales leadership. With company policies, management ‘sponsors’ and training programs, companies can make a difference.

Find out more about why companies that embrace gender diversity in sales leadership will be better prepared in this infographic: “Break the Sales Glass Ceiling. Gain the Competitive Edge.”

Micheline Nijmeh is the CMO for LiveHive, Inc., whose award-winning sales acceleration platform provides engagement analytics to understand buyers’ interests and improve sales follow-up. A seasoned Silicon Valley executive, Nijmeh has served as Senior Director, Integrated Global Campaigns at Salesforce.com, where she led the market launch of Salesforce’s Chatter and Force platform.

Photo by #WOCinTech Chat