Only 13% of women hold leadership positions, indicating gender gap in India is still a big concern

Organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to deal with gender disparities in the Indian workplace. Surprisingly, women make up only 19% of India's overall sales workforce. Of them, only 13% hold leadership positions. So now the question arises: Why are so few females in sales roles?

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Gender inequality in the workplace is still a huge concern across the world. India is no exception. Indian organizations still hire more men than women for their sales teams. According to the latest report by LinkedIn, women account for only 19% of the total sales workforce in India. Surprisingly, only 13% of them hold leadership positions in Indian organizations.

Although women are significantly underrepresented in India’s sales workforce, the gender gap is somewhat narrower in Tier-1 cities, particularly in South India. Hyderabad has the highest percentage of women in sales positions, at 26%. This is followed by Bengaluru and Chennai, with 25% and 22% of women in sales roles, respectively.

On the other hand, Tier 2 cities such as Ahmedabad (14%), Lucknow (13%), and Jaipur (13%) have much lower percentages of women in sales. However, this figure is likely to increase in the near future.

Gender Gap In Indian Organizations

According to LinkedIn’s data, there are varying degrees of progress towards diversity in the sales workforce across industries in India. While the IT services and retail sectors have made significant strides towards inclusion, with 27% and 23%, respectively, of women employed in sales roles, the pharmaceutical (10%), manufacturing (14%), and automotive industries (14%) still have room for improvement.

These sectors can take proactive measures to bridge the gender gap and create a more diverse and inclusive sales workforce.

So now the question arises: Why are so few Indian females in sales roles? Flexibility, which matters a lot for a salesperson, is one of the primary causes of the gender disparity in sales roles in Indian firms.

Sales job demands working at odd hours, including attending calls from clients and customers and occasionally meeting them in person. Women, in contrast to men, are reluctant to accept calls after a fixed working schedule. It can also be challenging for females to meet clients during late evenings due to security concerns in India.

India has been dealing with a rapidly declining female workforce. Female participation in the Indian organisation has declined from 35% in 2005 to 26% in 2018. As a result, India was ranked 120 out of 131 countries, according to the World Bank, in terms of female labour force participation rates in 2019. This issue is compounded by the fact that a large number of women are leaving the workforce at an alarming rate.

A study by the Centre for Talent Innovation shows that 36% of Indian women take a break from their jobs at some point. Although 91% of them wish to resume their careers, 40-45% face difficulties finding appropriate opportunities. Even in the technology sector, around 45% of women quit their jobs after five to eight years and do not return.

Importance of Skill-first hiring

Another intriguing trend highlighted in LinkedIn’s India sales workforce research is that 62% of women who have recently joined sales careers in India have no prior expertise in this industry. Instead, they come from non-sales backgrounds such as marketing and business development.

This suggests that employees with skills in marketing, business development, or related fields could potentially leverage those skills when transitioning to sales positions.

Furthermore, many organizations are actively trying to address unconscious bias by placing greater emphasis on job-related skills rather than factors like gender, educational degrees, or prior sales experience when recruiting for sales roles.

This approach could help to increase diversity and gender balance in sales teams and improve overall business performance.

Diversity is important across all job functions and especially in sales because it boosts creativity, encourages innovation, and inspires a skills-first culture — all of which is key to business growth and success today. Adopting this skills-first mindset will also ultimately lay the foundation for increased boardroom diversity, bringing a wealth of fresh perspectives and ideas to India’s business world.” said Ruchee Anand, senior director, talent and learning solutions, LinkedIn India.

Top skills required for a successful career in sales in India

The top 10 skills for Indian sales professionals are listed below:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Career Management
  • Project Management
  • Business Analysis
  • Public Speaking
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Leadership
  • Sales Effectiveness
  • Presentation Skills
  • Time Management

Additionally, social media marketing is a skill that is specifically relevant for female sales professionals.

Bottom Line

Only 19% of women are in sales roles, indicating a gender disparity in India’s workforce that remains a key concern for organizations. However, there is hope, with some industries and cities progressing towards greater diversity and inclusivity.

By adopting a skills-first hiring approach and proactively combating unconscious bias, organizations can help bridge the gender gap in sales roles and promote greater gender diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. It is important to recognize that diversity is critical to driving creativity, innovation, and business growth. Addressing the gender gap in sales roles is a vital step towards achieving these goals.


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