I’m Competing With A Man For A Promotion And Facing Gender Bias: Mentor Centre

Women aspiring for senior level marketing roles are often penalised for having 'no sales background'. How does one overcome this sometimes invisible barrier?

Women aspiring for senior level marketing roles are often penalised for having ‘no sales background’. How does one overcome this sometimes invisible barrier?

Mentor Centre is a Women’s Web initiative where you get to ask your career queries and we get you thoughtful responses from leading women in industry. If you have a question, ask away!

I am currently working in a junior management role at a pharmaceutical company. I joined here directly after my MBA, and have been working here for 6 years now. I am now in the running for a promotion to a middle managerial role; however, I am competing against a man with around 6-8 years of experience, who has come up to his current position from the sales track in the company. I believe that I am as capable or more, of doing the regional marketing head role that I am aiming for.

However, although nothing directly is being said, I have been given hints that my being a woman, and especially a woman who lacks sales experience, is being considered a negative. (Incidentally, my company actively discourages women from sales roles anyways). What do you feel I can do to maximise my chances of success at getting this promotion?

– RM, Marketing Manager at a Pharma company

Unfortunately, this is a problem that many women face, especially in more traditional industries. At the initial stage they are not given an opportunity because they are women (in your case the sales role), and thus lose valuable experience and then exactly that lacuna is held against them. The more direct way to handle it is where you go and speak to HR or the relevant decision maker and throw your hat in the ring so to speak.

Present to them why you are the ideal candidate, what strengths you will bring to the role because of your experience, what you would do in that role and so on. Also, without referring to the hints you have got, you need to talk about how being a woman has never come in the way of your job with examples (I assume your past record will demonstrate this). A direct approach clears the air (sometimes organizations feel the woman is not interested in being pushed up to due to subconscious biases) and then the organization in a way is answerable to do things fairly.

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If the culture in the organization doesn’t support direct conversations using a mentor (formal or informal) to push your case is an option worth trying out.

– Ms. Apurva Purohit, President, Jagran Group

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