Making your way in business isn’t always easy. There are plenty of ceilings – glass or otherwise – women must break through using the best of their capabilities, or be fortunate enough that great people and companies make this easier.
If you then look at this in a field like sales, of which bids are a part, as the ‘written’ sales function, the challenge is real. As reported through the Harvard Business Review, although women [in the US] make up over 50% of the college-educated workforce, they hold less than one-third of B2B sales jobs (as of 2019).
If we then modelled this into leadership roles, then this would be just 7% of women holding senior leadership roles in sales. For example, a study completed by the BBC in 2022, found that women held just 23% of executive positions. (23% of the 33% of women in B2B sales jobs). Diversity VC reports a similar figure only 27% of the venture capital workforce are women (e.g., women entrepreneurs focused on sales, growth, and building businesses).
At Bid for Success, as a women-owned and led sales company, we, therefore, see it as an essential part of our vision to help women succeed. This is both in the bidding industry (which is what we do at Bid for Success) or helping women-led businesses more generally in business. (82% of our team are women, to put this in context). We, therefore, wanted to take time to look at and talk about the practical solutions that can be put in place that encourage women in the industry to evolve leadership expertise and to help them address specific challenges they often, but not always, face.
We hope that by sharing this information it will help other women succeed not only in our professional industry but also support the great work of organisations like WIBAP (Women In Bids And Proposals). WIBAP is a proactive group enabling women in these spheres to connect, share and grow. It’s vital that both as women leaders in the bids/sales profession we do our part to provide valuable support for women starting out, or evolving their careers. Recognising the challenges experienced by others can help make that essential difference.
What Support Can Women-Led Leaders and Businesses Provide?
We need to talk about how all women in business (whether in bids or not), as well as those in leadership roles (all genders), can help build structures that help women to succeed. Whether these involve inspiring confidence, career building, or creating structures that support having children or family life, we, at Bid for Success, believe that these conversations are healthy and should be shared throughout business.
There are several things that we and everyone can be doing including;
- Enabling women to build confidence as part of a broader toolkit. We see this in the bidding sector, where there’s so much more involved than writing a bid – such as as stakeholder management, decision-making analytics, or building technical knowledge. Confidence is key when it comes to making strategic, smart decisions as an individual and with your team. We should encourage, provide mentoring, and ensure that women build confidence and the skills they need to support this through positive coaching and lived experience. Self-belief is a critical foundation, and when combined with expertise, is a powerful mix, that can help women (and all individuals) succeed.
- Creating employment structures which support normal ‘life.’ Women still invariably lead on the household front by way of example. The Guardian recently reported that women still lead on 65% of domestic duties. Hybrid working options are a great way to help manage these challenges; five minutes to put in a load of laundry, to be home for a much-needed delivery, etc., all build flexible structures that support women (or anyone with similar responsibilities) to make managing everything in their lives easier.
- Encouraging ambition, with pragmatism, to achieve their life goals and visions. As a result of the feminist moment, women have often been told they can have it all. We can, but it requires careful planning and an understanding that this can require a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
We need to be talking about what that looks like and how to build the structures in life that support this. If you want a family, what might pregnancy look like, how does that fit with maintaining your career? How does it function when you have kids and the cost of childcare or balancing that if you want to work part-time and stay at home? We need to be talking about and helping women to build life plans to succeed.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it highlights just some of the ways in which we, as women, can make a difference in the lives of other women on their own journeys. Continued communication, learning, and sharing ways in which we can help and support each other is paramount to achieving this.
How Are Bid for Success Supporting Women in Business?
In addition to the above, as a woman-owned/led business, we are doing our part. For example, we focus on flexibility, fairness and structure in how we work with every member of our team. We create a healthy work environment for all women and men, ensuring equality, and creating time for people to put their first things first. We also trust people to do the right thing – they don’t have to ask for time off to deal with a personal matter, just communicate their needs.
We make having conversations on areas like the above a safe place. We talk about what works in making people happy in all areas of their life and how we can make that work under win:win outcomes wherever possible, aligning business needs. We offer part-time and flexible working options; we revisit these discussions regularly and ensure that things work well for everyone.
Lastly, we work to build technical skills, competencies and expertise, so that these are mutually shared for everyone’s benefit. Plus, we offer training so that everyone can upskill. We also share best practices and how allied, lived experience and knowledge can create new skills, knowledge and confidence to add to people’s toolkits in their broader careers.
Top Tips for Women-Led Business Owners and Managers
Here are a few supportive ideas that work for us and hopefully will help you provide smart support for women in business:
- Build and applaud methods of resilience and encourage; and if you see someone struggling, make it ok to talk about it and look after them
- Create a support network and celebrate other women, their careers and successes, alongside discussing the challenges
- Seek out great partners and a team that have each other’s back, building the right culture is one of the key foundations for success
- Provide suitable benefits for women in your business and the options for their careers and work lives to succeed
If anything in this blog has sparked your curiosity, or you’d like to talk through the top tips we’ve shared, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 020 8012 8606, contact us via email or connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.
We want to know what you’re doing to help support women and how we too can take that knowledge and insight to build a bid for success for all women, whether in bids and sales or more broadly as a community, together.Back to Blog