How to navigate the diversity imbalance in sales

For this week’s podcast episode, I’m pleased to introduce you to Doreen Pernel, CSO at Scaleway.

I’m so happy we had Doreen on because we talked about a topic I’ve always found hard to navigate as a man: How can we bring more women into sales and remove any prejudices about women?

Not only that, but we also discussed Doreen’s leadership style, how she goes about leading a team of leaders vs. ICs, and how she’s always ensuring business continuity.

You can listen to the episode here, or read along to get our favorite comments on the subject of women in sales.

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Let’s face it, there are still prejudices toward women in business. Not that men do it on purpose; it is often unconscious. Doreen has had her fair share of challenges, as she explained:

“Together with my team of ICs, we attended an event as prospective customers. The name badges only included the name, no job title. During the evening, the sales rep from the organizing vendor talked to every one of my male team members, except me. So when I left, I told him, ‘Well, you talked to everyone on my team, except me, but now I have to leave.’ The day after, I received an apology message through LinkedIn, saying he had not seen me.

The sad part is: Doreen believed him. Of course, this sales rep was not consciously ignoring the Chief Sales Officer. On the contrary, during such an event, that’s what he’s hoping for: forging a relationship with the decision maker. So, can we assume that the rep had not seen Doreen because she is a woman and just ‘figured’ she would not be a C-level person? Perhaps.

A way to solve this is by having better representation.

“It is similar to a restaurant that is packed with people; it captures attention and creates envy. If there are more women in sales or sales leadership, other women will get inspired and intrigued.

So, what can we – men and women – do to change this?

As a man, we ought to give more intentional thought to how we are assuming stereotypes. Times have changed, and so should our view on business & society. Doreen also suggests just asking if you see yourself falling back to old assumptions.

“For example, my son is being raised by two working parents. That’s creating a modern dynamic in the household. It is also not super clear to my team what my role at home is, or, said differently, what my boundaries are due to my private life. However, I just expect them to ask me about my motherhood. To give you an example, I cherish my time with my son. If anyone expects something of me in the late evening, then they know I will take care of it after my son has gone to bed.”

As a woman, Doreen advises being proactive about expressing clear ambitions, especially if they’re different from the norm. Next, just let the numbers and your performance speak for themselves. If you’re surrounded by leaders who will empower you for what you can bring, you’ll get what you deserve.

“My CEO does not care if you’re a man or a woman; he’s concerned about the performance. I like that. He does not treat anyone differently, so he will be tough with me and coach me. But if I win a race, I know it’s going to be because of me. Not because I’m a woman.

That’s an incredibly good point. You don’t want to promote a woman for the sake of having more women in leadership. It should always be performance first.

Qualification over diversity. I will not put my bar and standard lower just because I want diversity. However, if equal qualification, experience, and everything else are present, but I get diversity, then it’s a totally different story.”

It makes me wonder – what do you do to have better Diversity, Equality & Inclusion (DE&I) at the workplace?