This year, International Women’s Day is particularly meaningful for women and people of color here in the United States. Our new vice president, Kamala D. Harris, is the first woman, first Black person, and first person of South Asian descent to hold that high office. But even Vice President Harris is a reminder that women still have many ceilings to break through — including one for the Oval Office. (Also, consider that only 21 out of 193 countries have a female head of state or government.)
The events of the past year, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement, have only helped to underscore the critical importance of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our workplaces. And while many companies have struggled to maintain their focus on and investment in DEI initiatives due to pandemic-related economic pressures, according to Boston Consulting Group, I’m proud to say Chorus is not among them.
In fact, we’ve designated 2021 as a “Year of Learning” for our company. We have an initiative underway internally right now to take our DEI effort to the next level in the months ahead. As an example, one event we’re currently organizing is a “Women in Leadership” workshop, where we’ll be discussing ways to help the women in our company grow professionally and better understand what support and resources they need to achieve their career goals at Chorus.
International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the amazing women in our lives, including in our workplaces. We should do this every day, of course. But it’s good to have a specific day each year to reflect on how much women all around the world have accomplished — and also, how much more change must happen before all women can be confident that they have equal rights and opportunities.
Working to build a more gender-balanced revenue generation team
Our upcoming activities for the Year of Learning at Chorus will build on a strong DEI foundation that we’ve already established in our organization. DEI has always been a focus for our company.
Some of our organization’s best practices for promoting DEI include:
- Using career ladders to drive transparency and equal opportunity through the company
- Providing unconscious bias training to all new hires
- Offering 100% paid maternity leave for 16 weeks, and 6 weeks for secondary caregivers
All our senior executives, including our CEO Jim Benton, are deeply invested in prioritizing DEI at Chorus — not only in our everyday work environment but also in our hiring practices. And we find that many people who are attracted to our company find our emphasis on DEI to be a top factor in their decision to join our organization. For example, I can tell you that our Chief Revenue Officer, Thiago Sá Freire, thoroughly interviewed us last year about our DEI efforts before agreeing to become part of our team!
When you look at the current composition of our revenue team, you can see the positive domino effect an emphasis on DEI can have in an organization. Our focus on and progress toward DEI helped us to secure a CRO who is committed to helping us create more balance between the number of men and women on our revenue team.
Here’s where we stand today:
- Our Account Executive (AE) team, as a whole, is 47% women and 53% men
- Our strategic AE team is 40% women, 60% men
- Our corporate AE team is evenly split: 50% women, 50% men
- Our customer success team is also evenly split: 50% women, 50% men
I should point out, too, that our women AEs are top contributors to revenue generation for Chorus — and several have made it into the President’s Club.
Obviously, our goal is to keep pushing for an even greater gender and diversity balance on our AE team. But I believe our results to date are noteworthy. Consider that recent research from LinkedIn found that women make up less than 40% of the sales workforce in the United States, generally. And according to Gartner, women hold just 19% of the leadership positions in sales.
Nicole LaBarbera is one of those women leaders. She’s our new Regional Vice President of Enterprise Sales — hired by Thiago — and she has a long track record in tech sales, including at Oracle and Medallia. I asked Nicole how she felt about joining Chorus, and she told me, “It’s inspiring to be part of an organization that has leaders, like Thiago, who are so focused on driving DEI initiatives forward. I’m excited about this new chapter in my career because I know I have the support I need to excel.”
Empowering BIPOC professionals to becomes sales and customer success stars
Chorus is committed not only to increasing the diversity of our own workforce, but also, diversity in the tech industry. One of our recent initiatives is the Chorus Accelerator Program, which we launched with Us in Technology in December 2020. Us in Technology is a mission-driven diversity supplier that shares our company’s goal of helping to diversify the tech industry.
The Chorus Accelerator Program is a three-month paid apprenticeship program aimed toward accelerating and empowering black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) to learn and grow their career in sales and customer success. Us in Technology identifies candidates and Chorus then trains and develops these individuals, providing both education and work experience. The program pairs minority professionals with a mentor in Sales or Customer Success to help equip them with essential skills, networking opportunities, and the confidence to break into the technology industry and evolve into future leaders.
It’s important to know that the Chorus Accelerator Program began as an employee-driven initiative at our company. I consider that a real testament to our company’s commitment to DEI. Everyone is so busy with their work, and the past year has been especially intense with everyone working remotely and dealing with pandemic disruption. Yet our team members still took the time to work together to develop the concept for this program and get buy-in from our leadership team, who were delighted to support it.
When we announced the launch of the program, our CEO Jim Benton said, “For the professionals who haven’t yet found their seat at the table, the Chorus Accelerator Program is built to help foster essential skills and overall exposure to the SaaS Industry. We formed a cross-functional team to build a program that will help create more opportunities and build deep, meaningful, long-lasting connections between Chorus and underserved populations. These actions are important to me, our employees, and the broader community, so we’re developing specific, actionable, and measurable goals for the company.”
One of our program’s Customer Success apprentices, Hileena Gebreysus, says of her experience with the program so far: “I am proud to work for a company like Chorus and be part of an organization like Us in Technology, where people that look like me matter. Diversity, equity, and inclusion aren’t just a nice-to-haves at Chorus, but tangible priorities. This commitment to DEI makes me feel like I belong and am seen in my workplace.”
Helping #GirlsClub empower women to ascend to sales leadership
Another way we’re helping to change the face of sales in the tech industry — and beyond — is through our partnership with #GirlsClub. The mission of #GirlsClub is to empower more women to earn roles in sales leadership as a way to help “reverse the zero-growth trend of women leaders in sales.” Chorus is one of the organization’s two Title Sponsors, and we sponsor three management training scholarships through #GirlsClub annually.
Our Vice President of Marketing, Natalie Severino, is super-passionate about supporting #GirlsClub and the scholarships — and she says loves working for a company that shares her dedication to helping women in sales to succeed. “I’ve received nothing but support from the internal team at Chorus when spearheading our partnership with #GirlsClub,” says Natalie.
And for good reason. #GirlsClub is not only helping women across revenue organizations succeed, they’re also helping us at Chorus groom our next generation of sales leaders. Last year Karina Erickson joined the program and has since been promoted from Senior BDR to Corporate Account Executive delivering stellar results and outperforming her quota.
This year’s scholarships included our very own Kora Graham, who is a thriving member of our Corporate AE team. Kora says, “Chorus continuously invests in my career development. Since joining the company last year, I’ve up-leveled my sales foundation to become an advanced seller by learning the Challenger sales methodology and my scholarship for #GirlsClub. Chorus has given me the opportunity to become a leader for my team, as well as a mentor for the Chorus Accelerator Program, which focuses on bringing more diverse voices to the tech industry.” The other two scholarship winners are Rita Simmons, a midmarket business adviser at Yooz USA, and Mary Kate Mason, AE, and Aurora Solar. Kora, Rita, and Mary Kate will participate in a six-month training program with other current or aspiring female sales managers to engage in professional development and receive mentoring and other support. (Congratulations, Ladies!)
Recognizing that DEI is good for people — and for business
I have to say that I feel fortunate as well to work at a company where DEI is truly top of mind for everyone. I joined Chorus as the Head of People Operations just over a year ago, and little did I know then that I would have to race to keep up with everything the company wants to accomplish with DEI! The team is always looking to do more and do better — and go beyond even some of the actions I recommend that I think are bold. This whole experience has really been a first for me.
On this International Women’s Day, I’d like to encourage all leaders at technology companies, large and small, to think about where they stand with their DEI initiatives. At this point in time, in society, and in business, DEI should be a priority for every organization. It’s not only the right thing to do from a people perspective. It can have a direct impact on your business’s bottom line.
Consider the following:
- Companies with diverse workforces are 70% more likely to capture new markets than firms that don’t actively recruit and support talent from under-represented groups.
- When the S&P 500 index declined by more than 35% during the global financial crisis, the stocks of inclusive companies actually increased by 14%.
- Gartner projects that 75% of organizations with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture will exceed their financial targets through 2022.
Also, according to Gartner, gender-diverse and inclusive teams outperform gender-homogeneous, less-inclusive teams by 50%, on average.
These are just a few stats that show the positive impact DEI can have on business performance. So, the question is, why wouldn’t a company make DEI a high priority?