How Can We Support the Future of Women in Sales?

In 2008, I didn’t know who Katherine Switzer was. I saw her in the crowd at the Boston Marathon holding flowers and smiling. Back in my hotel room, I googled her and quickly realized why she was getting praised and honoured. She was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon back in 1967.

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Left: Katherine Switzer at the 1967 Boston Marathon, being assaulted by the race manager, Jock Semple

During her run, race manager Jock Semple assaulted Switzer, trying to grab her bib number and stop her from competing, because she was a woman, completely appalling.

As a runner, I am well aware of what goes into training both physically and mentally to get you to race day. To be denied that because of your gender is unexplainable.

I had instant pride, admiration and gratitude for Katherine and her vision, relentless mission and passion for equality. Newer runners need to know who blazed a trail to our running freedom today. Katherine was our invisible heroine, before that race I hadn’t heard of her, but once I did her mission guided me. It made me feel supported and in turn, want to give back to others both on and off the course.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I can’t help but draw a parallel to my running experience. How many of us sales leaders know or are perhaps like Katherine? have we helped other women land their first sales job, mentor them, coach them along the way? How can we be someone’s visible heroine?

What about taking the next step and supporting women to put their name forward to step into sales leadership, break the glass ceiling and create more room for future female leaders.

When I was interviewing for a sales job in 2008, I was surrounded by a panel of 3 men. I was trying to figure out how they were like me, how I would fit in. I continued to be surrounded by men and this became the only thing I knew.

Don’t get me wrong, many of them taught me valuable lessons and we are still connected today, but as humans, we look for those like us, who can I identify with? If they can do it, I too can do it, and I didn't see it. You can see how “out of sight out of mind” may come into play here.

How can we step up and help others to find their voice, their seat at the table or their next leadership role?

As women, we tend to get in our head more than men, internalize our thoughts until they are the only thing we hear. These thoughts can end up paralyzing us into standing still and in some cases playing small.

All leaders, I encourage you to take a step back and observe the culture of your team or organization. Are you creating a safe space for everyone to be heard, understood, and validated? Are there overbearing people continually stealing the show further pushing some back into their shells?

It is upon us to model the behaviour, create the path for them to stand in their own light and feel the power and strength of it.

How can we support women?

Do you have a women’s group at your organization? Somewhere women and men can come together to learn about events taking place locally, what initiatives are being talked about, what can we bring into our organizations to increase awareness of the gender equality gap. How can we make a difference?

Do you offer a mentorship program? New grads, women in sales, women in leadership. Many of us have been in sales for decades, we are unaware of the experience, skills and knowledge we have built up over the years. Can we sit down with a woman in her sales journey and offer support, guidance, strategic direction, or a sounding board. A little goes a long way.

Do you have a diverse team? Different backgrounds, experience levels and gender. How can we leverage our different perspectives, thoughts, skills and come together stronger? Think outside the box. Innately women have strengths different from men, with a diverse team, these can be balanced out.

So this International Women’s Day, I invite you to look around you and question why we do some of the things we do, who were the pioneers that went before us? How can we be the pioneer for the future generation?

For any woman who is lost, needs direction, someone to listen to, plan her next move, I am happy to have a conversation, my door is open, to listen or offer advice. #women help women

What will you do today that will get us one step closer to #BreakTheBias, closing the gender equality gap, for our friends, sister and daughters?

Happy International Women’s Day!

About Karen Kelly

For 20 years Karen has been specializing in the art and science of sales and communication her passion and experience are helping technical sales professionals become more confident and to disrupt with value.

Her dedication to developing and delivering customized sales training programs provide her audience practical, relevant tools  that can be used immediately to break down the barriers in a competitive landscape and separate themselves from the noise.

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