There are not enough women in the upper echelons of direct sales corporations. If you look at photos of the company’s executive teams, you’ll see that they will do things like putting an assistant in the picture so they’ll look like women are involved, when really they aren’t. I know—I’ve seen it. It’s a crazy thing to see, but sadly it’s common.
Companies need to get women into executive positions, and it has nothing to do with being politically correct. There are major differences between the way women operate and the way men operate. Forgive me for generalizing, but clichés become clichés for a reason. Many men are problem solvers—they’re driven. Many women on the other hand engage—they connect.
For a long time, the rhetoric around the industry has focused on convincing people to buy. “Convincing”— an idea from a problem solver. Today the mentality that works in this industry is one that focuses on engaging people, not convincing them. Today, if we want to bring people into this profession we must engage them, and women are good at that.
Companies need fresh female perspectives as part of their executive teams or at least as part of their boards. Somehow, a woman’s voice must be heard in these companies. Otherwise everything will be very driven, instead of being very engaging.
I suspect the reason for the gender disparity in corporate leadership is primarily an oversight. I don’t believe we are grooming new female executives to move into higher executive roles—I don’t believe we’re making enough of an effort.
Let’s say you get a woman in the door at corporate. Maybe she came in from the field and she’s a trainer. And she’s good in training, so you just keep her there forever. From her perspective there is no place for her to go. She’s good at what she does so her superiors don’t realize that she has the strength to move up and neither does she. But that’s not the only reason she doesn’t move up. It’s also because she has not been educated on how to work inside an executive team of men, she hasn’t been educated on how to be gracefully assertive. She stays quiet, and her voice is not heard.
The challenge—not knowing how to be executives—isn’t specific to women rising in the ranks of existing, male-headed companies. Executives in the very few female-headed companies we work with, have been trying to do this in a male box. In other words, they have been trying to follow the model laid out by their peers, and their peers are mostly men. So when women get executive coaching, they figure out that who they are is more than enough—that they can do it in a more female-friendly way and be more comfortable in their own skin. That’s an exciting thing. The executives that we’ve been able to touch are seeing that there’s more than one way to get there.
So part of the vision for the Direct Selling World Alliance (DSWA.org) and for the whole profession is to support women in learning to transfer over into corporate and, once they get to corporate, how to develop themselves. At the moment, most of our efforts go into reaching out for more people. But if we could groom younger women to have the skills necessary to spot and create opportunities for themselves, I believe we could make a real difference in this profession.
Nicki Keohohou, CEO and Co-founder, Direct Selling World Alliance and CoachSchool.org. Nicki is a Certified Business Coach with WABC (Worldwide Association of Business Coaches), best selling author and direct selling expert.