Sales has been a historically male-dominated profession, although the number of female sellers is on the rise of late. According to LinkedIn, women now account for 39% of all sales roles, a slight increase from 36% a decade ago. 

But a quick walk-through of any sales floor will show you that there's still work to be done in equalizing the sales gender gap. What's keeping women from pursuing and working sales jobs?

New research from Guardian sheds some light on the answer. A survey of 2,035 women revealed three barriers to entry when it comes to sales.

1) Too much pressure.

Seventy percent of survey respondents said they would "always be stressed and under pressure" in a sales job. In addition, women don't want to put pressure on others: 77% said they were not "pushy enough" to effectively work in sales. While the amount of pressure attached to a sales job largely depends on the type of role, and what and how a rep sells, the second point seems like an outdated notion of what it takes to be successful in sales. Managers: Take note.

2) Too much uncertainty.

Being paid on a commission structure is one of the most polarizing elements of sales. While the idea of pay-for-performance exhilarates some, it was a turn-off for the women in this study: 79% said they wouldn't want a commission-based salary. And uncertainty extends beyond pay structure -- 64% of survey takers indicated that they were unsure how much time and energy it would take to be successful in a sales job. 

3) Too old school.

Women also struggle with sales' image problem. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said that a sales job reminded them of a "used car salesman." And who wants to act like a used car salesman? Certainly not the women in this survey, 60% of whom said they have never considered a job in sales.

Whether these perceptions are right or wrong, it's clear that sales isn't the most appealing profession to the majority of women. Sales managers, leaders, and recruiters would be wise to recalibrate their hiring strategies with these roadblocks in mind. 

The silver lining? Women become more open to working in sales once they dip their toes in the water. According to the report, "for women who have considered a sales position in the past, the vast majority (75%) [said they] would consider it in the future." 

What do you think is keeping women from working in sales today? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Originally published Oct 27, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

Topics:

Women in Sales