Between banging the gong, bumping fists, and celebratory brews after closing a major deal, the world of enterprise sales can feel very much like a boys club. But this story isn’t about male-dominated sales culture. It’s about something much more problematic—male-dominated sales compensation.
Our 2019 Enterprise Sales Compensation Report uncovered that male sellers make a more than their female counterparts—and it’s not even close.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Reviewing the results of our survey from a high level, a few startling stats jumped out at us right away:
- Men make $234,205 on average, while women make an average of $187,225.
- Women in sales start off with much lower base salaries than their male counterparts: $85,250 compared to $98,786.
- Women also receive fewer stock options than men—in fact, 81 percent fewer.
No surprise, then, that nearly half of women in sales say they are at least somewhat dissatisfied with their current compensation packages.
Looking for a way to explain this disparity, we examined respondents’ seniority. Maybe, we thought, male respondents, skewed more senior and would, therefore, logically make more money. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Some 73 percent of female sellers in our survey were at the account exec level or below, while the same was true of 69 percent of males. A difference of four percent simply can’t explain a 20 percent difference in overall compensation.
Obviously, these numbers are troubling. At the same time, there are some encouraging signs indicating that steps are being taken to address these issues. For example, more women than men say they have received a raise in the past two years.
This suggests that sales teams may be beginning to realize they need to proactively address gender disparities in pay. That’s good news, but there’s much work left to be done.
Women and Sales Leadership
Right now, women hold just 39 percent of all sales roles in the U.S., and the culture of many sales organizations continues to reflect that. But effectively driving cultural change doesn’t just require buy-in from senior leadership, it also requires leaders to embody a different set of values.
In enterprise sales, however, that’s an acute problem. Emissary’s study found that, while women may feel uncomfortable in SDR, account management or account executive roles, their level of discomfort is likely to increase as they move up the org char.
Indeed, women are most of all underrepresented in executive positions within sales organizations, comprising just 21 percent of VPs and 23 percent of CXOs. This degree of underrepresentation can have wide-ranging negative impacts, all of which ultimately serve to preserve the status quo. That needs to change—fast.
3 Ways to Promote Gender Equality
As Emissary’s research makes clear, sales organizations today have a mandate to move the needle on gender equality. And to help you get started, here are three areas to prioritize right now.
Evaluate salaries, and formally pledge to support equal pay
The first step is to understand if—and to what extent—pay inequality is currently an issue at your organization. From there, you can work with HR partners and finance heads to adjust salaries and offers. You should also consider formalizing your commitment to pay equality by taking a public pledge—doing so can also help differentiate your organization in the eyes of candidates.
Provide flexible work options
Women and men often have different obligations outside of the workplace—and this is especially true when it comes to caring for family members. Among working parents, for example, 42 percent of mothers say they have cut back on working hours to care for a child or family member, compared to only 28 percent of fathers. That kind of imbalance can seriously impact career growth, so companies need to offer flexible work options to help counteract it.
Rethink your performance reviews
What’s wrong with annual performance reviews? For starters, they often wind up being unintended repositories of implicit or unconscious biases. For instance, one study of approximately 5,000 performance reviews revealed that employees’ rating depended on “personal idiosyncrasies and biases of the rater” 65 percent of the time, and on actual performance just 25 percent of the time. Revenue teams should prioritize ongoing dialogue and feedback—and ensure they offer training on unconscious bias—to correct that.
These three simple steps are just the beginning, but they can help sales organizations begin to make long-overdue progress around gender inequality in sales compensation.
Download the Report
If you’d like to learn more about compensation disparities in enterprise sales, we invite you to download our 2019 Enterprise Sales Compensation Report.
We surveyed enterprise sellers from around the U.S. to uncover insights like:
- Average compensation by position
- Sellers’ satisfaction with their salaries and commissions
- How education affects sales salaries
- Gender’s startling impact on overall compensation
Emissary’s recent study set out to shine some light on the black box of sales compensation. What we found was a concerning disparity in pay between male and female members of the sales team. This is particularly alarming, but we’ve offered a few strategies companies can use to right the ship.
To find out more about what enterprise sellers make, how they feel about their compensation, and more, download our 2019 Enterprise Sales Compensation Report today.