IWD: The challenges facing women in sales

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To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, Head of Operations, Amee Patel, has interviewed some of the women from each department here at CloudTrade to recognize and celebrate the work they are doing and the successes they have had.

The final instalment of this series features our sole female salesperson – Rebecca Bohms, who has a wealth of experience in sales in the tech industry.

AP: Hi Rebecca. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me as our female representative from Sales! Can you start by telling me about yourself and your role here at CloudTrade?

RB: I’ve been working in sales roles in the data-capture world for over 20 years. I worked at a software company in California called Cardiff Software, and they sold a forms-processing technology called Teleform.  That’s how I got my start in the tech industry. From there I worked for some of our competitors, both in America and in the UK, and I’ve also worked for IT companies selling various things, but capture was always included in that. I have sold into all kinds of businesses, both directly or indirectly through partner channels. That’s what I am focusing on here at CloudTrade – setting up partnerships in the Americas. We don’t have a vast partner network there currently, so I’m also making direct sales, but eventually I’d like to be able to qualify more of those deals to give to partners. Business Development is my official title but it encompasses so many things – as you know, being a smaller organisation means we wear many hats!

AP: I definitely know that feeling! For you, what is the best thing about working for CloudTrade?

RB: For me, personally, first and foremost it’s the people. I’m working with people who are so talented and open and just lovely. I get great support, and it helps me to be the best version of myself that I can be.  The other thing that I find is that because we’re a small organization every piece of work I do is valued. At CloudTrade everything one does goes into a pot of work that’s all for the greater good and nothing you do is treated as minor. The things that I come up with or share are listened to and weighted and seen as valuable, and you can’t always get that in larger organisations. That’s the best part for me, I feel like I’m listened to and heard.

AP: It’s interesting you say that. As you know, we often recruit graduates where this is an entry level role for them and when we talk about other organisations, we often talk about how easy it is to become a cog, but that doesn’t happen here because the wheel is too small! Obviously you have had a lot of experience in this industry – do you think attitudes to women have changed over the last 20 years?

RB: I thought a lot about this question, and initially I didn’t think things had changed that much, but as I thought more about it, I realized the attitudes towards women in the workplace are very much dependent on each individual and where you are in your life. As a woman, we have so many responsibilities and work is just one of those. There are times in women’s lives when work is not as big a priority as say, caring for a child, and so where you fit into the workplace at that time is very different to when work is your primary focus. I’ve been through various stages throughout my career and in general, if we’re looking at how women are treated, I don’t think a lot has changed that much in the last twenty years, except that it’s become more friendly to working moms. Gender disparity prior to when I started working had been cut out drastically. I was fortunate to come into a world of work where women were less discriminated against. I do think, however, that it’s important to recognize that there are differences between men and women. Personally, I acknowledge, address and embrace those differences. Women and men have unique characteristics, for example, women naturally have more of a nurturing instinct, and men naturally are more protective, and it’s about working out how we utilize that in the work environment. I do think that the nurturing and empathetic abilities of women make them good managers. I’ve seen in the last 20 years more women in management and, personally, I think it’s a natural fit.

AP: As a woman in management, naturally I completely agree! Do you feel like you have experienced challenges in the workplace and how have you overcome them?

RB: I did actually experience a strange female-only challenge in the last five years. It was when I joined a new sales team, and was the only woman on the team. I went into the first sales meeting, in a room full of men, and the first slide had something on it that was offensive to women. It’s so difficult, because you want to be included and act like you’re not offended because you don’t want to be the odd person out, but you just don’t share the joke. After that, the manager and I never really clicked. I just stayed away from him. Fortunately, due to a company-wide reorganization, I was moved to another team shortly afterwards, but it had an effect. My opinion of him made me consider my time there and my desire to progress in that company. As life would have it, I moved on from the organisation, but I do wonder what I would have done had I been promoted and stayed, and had to be managed by him again. I knew I’d have to have a frank conversation with him about where we stand, and it would have been uncomfortable, but it would have needed to be done. That’s what I think it all boils down to with regards to women in the workplace – it comes down completely to the individual and how you handle yourself.

AP: So if you had advice for young women looking to start a career in Sales in the tech industry, what would it be?

RB: I would say go for it. Whilst on the one hand, yes, you may be in a minority, but on the other hand I’ve found it beneficial to be seen as a unique and different type of sales person, strictly because I’m a woman. Most of the people I sell to in tech are men. For whatever reason they connect with me quite well and perhaps it’s because I have a female perspective that’s nurturing and empathetic. I am sure that sales in tech has definitely made for a good career for me and I’d recommend it to any woman that wants to try it.

AP: Rebecca – thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. It’s been great to glimpse into your experiences in the tech world.

Sadly, this marks the end of our International Women’s Day series. We hope that you have enjoyed following the stories of the various women from CloudTrade, and, as always, if you would like to contact either Rebecca, or anyone else featured in this blog series, then please do not hesitate to get in touch!

IWD: The challenges facing women in sales 3

Rebecca Bohms

Director of Business Development – North America