Despite making up nearly half of the global workforce, women represent only 40% of mid-level B2B sales employees, dropping to 31% at the senior level, according to Gartner.

Gartner conducted a labor market survey of 72 000 employees globally from Q1 through Q4 of 2023, which included 2 183 respondents who identified as having a B2B sales role.

The survey revealed that nearly one-quarter of the 864 women surveyed in B2B sales said they were actively job searching in 2023.

In addition, 58% of women and 47% of men reported that if they were offered rapid career advancement, they would accept a new job that is otherwise similar to their current one – this suggests obstacles and lack of opportunity, rather than lack of ambition, are more likely to explain the underrepresentation of women in senior sales roles.

“It is essential that sales leaders remove the roadblocks that prevent women from advancing into senior roles,” says Kelly Fischbein, senior principal: research in the Gartner Sales Practice. “Looking beyond equality and optics, it’s clear that organizations with gender diversity enjoy greater profitability and experience lower return-on-equity volatility.”

The survey also found that women report going above and beyond more frequently than their male counterparts. Sixty-eight percent of the women surveyed volunteer for additional duties, 76% frequently help others who have heavy workloads, and 83% constantly look for ways to do their jobs better.

In order to improve representation of women in the salesforce in 2024 and beyond, chief sales offers should address gender-based differences at three different career stages:

* Starting in sales: Better work-life balance, comprehensive benefits, and more valuable professional development opportunities are the top factors women said would lead them to accept a new job. Furthermore, 27% percent of the women rated health benefits in their top five priorities, compared to 19% of men. In order to make their organisation more attractive to all talent, CSOs should assess both healthcare coverage and advancement opportunities.

* Climbing the ladder: The motherhood penalty often inhibits womens’ career growth. Instead of disqualifying women for a gap in their employment history, CSOs should reconsider how they hire for mid-level sales roles and seek to counteract this gap.

* Succeeding at the top: With the striking drop-off of women in senior levels, sales leaders should empower underrepresented talent through growth-focused networks that will build performance, development and advancement in sales.

“By reevaluating benefits strategies and systematically building a diverse leadership pipeline that ensures women are part of their talent bench, leaders can keep women engaged and on the corporate ladder,” says Fischbein.