Moving the Needle on Gender Bias in the SaaS Industry

Post by: Yvette Midwinter, Kacey Canning Lauren Nugent
Published: 21 April 2022

Despite the positive evolution in SaaS hiring practices over the past 10 years, the reality is many companies are still struggling to really nail a gender balance within their sales teams. Vendors are adopting some great initiatives to foster more diversity but with the addressable talent market so heavily skewed towards males, this remains an ongoing challenge. 

So how do we start to really move the needle on gender bias in the industry? 

At Salient, we believe that true inclusion is cultivated by an active push to champion, support and empower more women into leadership positions. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is a reminder of how much we can all do to collectively #BreakTheBias, so we asked three of our team members to share more of their thoughts on this. Check out what they had to say below.

Yvette Midwinter, Director

The desire to hire more females into sales teams is huge across the SaaS industry – companies see the huge cultural, strategic and commercial benefits a diverse team can bring. But the reality is, the current state of the SaaS sales talent market is heavily skewed towards males. Unfortunately this means, the initiatives a company would need to deploy in order to ongoingly hire and retain gender balanced teams require significant investments of time and resources. By nature, growth oriented SaaS companies run quite lean and in order to compete, they need to remain hyper focused on achieving growth targets. So they’re in this tricky position of, how do we achieve this without compromising growth? 

One of the highest leverage strategies I’ve seen companies take is a top down approach. Making a heavy investment into hiring female leaders at both an executive and line level has a neat flow down effect. Female leaders often result in more females hired into teams. Many research studies support this – female candidates follow great female leaders in the interview process and will stay longer if they have a great female role model in their role. For companies that are running lean, this approach makes a lot of sense. Rather than rolling out big expensive programs to address diversity across all levels – invest at the top and leverage female leaders in your hiring and engagement strategy.

Kacey Canning, Senior Recruitment Consultant

I do think that SaaS vendors are actively working on breaking the bias within sales hiring. However, it can be challenging to hire women into sales if they haven’t invested in structuring their interview process to be inclusive. 

For example, to support hiring women (and employees from minority backgrounds), they need to have a diverse hiring panel and ensure all candidates are asked the same role-relevant questions without veering into personal interests and circumstances.

Beyond that, companies can champion women by being supportive allies to them in the workplace, providing mentorship for them within their organisation, and highlighting their successes and achievements. They can also create pathways for women to move into leadership roles, and offer benefits that support women throughout their careers, such as good superannuation and maternity leave policies.

Lauren Nugent, Talent Advocate Consultant

I think a lack of inclusion is a problem in every industry that isn’t predominantly female. To help overcome this, companies need to start by making a point of recognising and celebrating the contributions of their female employees. This will make them feel welcome, valued and able to make their voice heard without worrying they will be lost in a crowd of men.

There can also be a focus on hosting events dedicated to female staff, such as all-female workshops, or seminars with powerful women talking about their own inspiring career journeys. I believe that this encourages other women to take on new challenges themselves.

We recently held an event for junior sales professionals through Salient’s APAC Women in Tech Sales Community. This event was focused on helping women to prepare and champion themselves for promotion from an SDR into a sales closing role. Afterwards many of the audience told me afterwards how empowered it made them feel – they were more than ready to take on the challenge of being promoted to an Account Executive, head-on after hearing first hand from other successful female leaders. 

Happy International Women’s Day everybody. It is our hope that the inclusion we wish to see in this industry becomes reality as biases towards women in tech become a thing of the past!