Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Are female sales pros staying at home an untapped gold mine?

My answer is yes. I know there are many women who were previously top notch sales pros at places like Sun, Time Warner, IBM, Pfizer, Oracle, etc. who have chosen to hit the Pause button on their career while they have young children. I applaud them for doing that in a world where value is often ascribed to how much money you can bring in the door. However, as kids get into grade school, there are often some spare hours available. My belief is that these spare hours and the desire to earn income and/or have non-parental goals are a big reason why you see the explosion of "Direct Selling" (aka multi-level marketing) companies. There are also many women who go into real estate. However, if you have skills in high tech or pharmaceutical sales where the selling process can be quite sophisticated and you received tremendous training, direct selling and real estate may not appeal to you.

This dynamic combined with entrepreneurs needing to be creative and run a lean operation creates an opportunity. Take Jet Blue. A CBS segment highlights how they leverage "stay at home moms". I have a couple client companies that are both exploring this opportunity. They'd like to find accomplished sales pros who would be willing to work on an uncapped commission-based compensation program. Like Jet Blue, they would be happy to accomodate sales pros who would prefer (or require) a more flexible work schedule/load. Typically, big corporations don't want to deal with those kinds of work arrangements -- at least amongst the high tech companies I've worked with/for. Their idea of flexibility is often that you can work from home a couple days a week but they still expect a full-time load.

Brad Feld is on the board of the National Center for Women & Information Technology and recently commented on why he's involved with that organization given their focus on bringing more women into the IT field. While they appear to be more focused on the computer science part of the IT industry, it's not without precedent to have former sales & marketing people move into product development teams (I saw this at Microsoft a number of times). Perhaps this could be another angle to achieve their goal. Another organization I've heard of is called WorldWIT (WIT stands for Women Insights Technology). They have some blogs related to the topic of balancing work and life issues including Jessica Niehaus' that pointed me towards an article about the "have it all" myth which highlights the number of women in the aforementioned situation.

How would you tap into this "untapped gold mine"? I know they are out there but it's not obvious the best avenue to reach out to them. Send me your thoughts or post a comment here.

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