International Women’s Day 2023 saw us continue our mission to fully #EmbraceEquity. This year's theme encourages us all to celebrate women's achievements and increase visibility while calling out inequality.
Change is fuelled by collective activism, from small-scale movement to large-scale momentum – which is why we sat down with our partner BT Business to discuss why we need to shift our thought processes from “equal opportunity” to “gender equity” in sales and leadership.
Our leaders came together to discuss their individual journeys to sales. Coming from different backgrounds – both personally and professionally – we found that forging gender equity isn’t limited to women solely fighting the good fight. Allies are incredibly important for the advancement of women in the workplace and for actualising the expectations women have of themselves in leadership roles. During our discussions, we touched on impostor syndrome and how it can be a detractor from going after the things we want – including job opportunities.
Impostor syndrome refers to people (often women and high achievers) who doubt their capabilities and accomplishments. And, according to a study by KPMG, a majority of executive women across various industries in America have identified as having gone through impostor syndrome at some point in their careers.
Prejudices about the sales field and the need to be “pushy” can deter women from exploring this career – but Danielle Racher, our AVP of Sales, wanted to set the record straight on what it actually involves:
“If you look at multitasking, at relationship building, or at problem-solving, these skills are aligned to many women and are things that we are great at naturally. So, you're not trying to make yourself into something you're not. You're growing and developing the things you're already good at. So, it's a perfect career path for women and I think it's a really great place to be.” – Danielle Racher, AVP of Sales at Salesforce.
But when it comes to reaching the C-Suite, self-doubt can have a major effect on reaching upwards – in fact, 47% of executive women say that their feelings of self-doubt result from never expecting to reach the level of success they have achieved in the first place. And while a brush with this self-doubt is natural in any line of work, at any point in our careers – the way forward is to embrace it.
Everybody has impostor syndrome. So once you realise that, you can let it go and know that we're all the same and we're all a little bit worried about being found out. I love the fact that I'm still learning life-changing things about leading every day.
But coming to this kind of actualisation is only a minor hurdle compared to the fact there is a lack of representation in sales and leadership roles. In fact, 32% of women identify with impostor syndrome because they don’t know others in a similar place to them either personally or professionally.
This is where representation, building allies, and having mentors play a crucial role in building gender equity. Leaders also need to realise that these alliances have benefits that go far beyond a box-ticking exercise.
“The key to allyship is really understanding the role we can play in the workplace to create a culture where workers are less likely to feel isolated. Strong and mutual alignment really benefits leaders and managers because it gets things done more quickly and smoothly than if we were to go it alone. Men and women have different viewpoints, ideas, and market insights, which I think will enable even better problem-solving. So for me, gender diversity is vital to any workplace”. – Stephane Lesenne - Sales Director, Regional Enterprise Europe at BT Business.
Our panel also spoke to the benefits of mentorships for women in sales and leadership. It’s one thing to feel supported by the teams around you, but you also need a mentor who can advise you on where you're going in the future and what your path is as a woman in business.
To me, you need a coach because you need somebody who will listen and help you find your own way – whether that's personal or professional because it all has an impact. We spend five days a week at work, so it's important that we show up authentically and have somebody to help us find our true selves in the workplace. If you can find a senior person in the organisation that will take your cause and fight for you in the room when you are not there, then those are the real gems when it comes to career progression.
This is why we’re so committed to the #EmbraceEquity campaign – not just today but in all that we do. Our aspiration is to create a workplace that looks like society. Transparency and accountability are key to advancing representation, so we will continually review our progress to keep us moving forward.
For further insight into how you can become an Equality Ally, check out our Trailhead module.