Sex (the other) Sells

August 5, 2010

By Edwin Dean

The recent census results aren’t out yet, but there is little doubt that some longstanding trends in the economy have continued. One is that the number of people in sales occupations has continued to increase, both in numbers and as a percentage of the workforce. In 2000 the total number was 16 million, about 12 percent of the employed workforce, including all types of sellers. This is up from five percent In 1920 and seven percent in 1960. About 41 percent of today’s sales workers sell in retail stores.

The other trend is for women to fill these roles. Selling used to be a predominantly male preserve, probably because it largely involved (heavy metal) durable goods like vacuum cleaners and sewing machines (think Willy Loman) produced by large manufacturers, and lots of time away from home. But stereotypes fade over time, and by 2000, nearly half of the sales workers recorded in the census were women. We will have to wait to see the 2010 results.

Women have lots going for them in sales positions. See

Now that selling is no longer just a matter of creating demand and overcoming resistance, their natural advantages over men (generally) come to the fore:

· They are better listeners.
· They tend to be more empathetic.
· They have women’s intuition.
· They multitask well.
· They are naturally good socializers.

As women throw off their old notions about what “selling” is, and realize these advantages, the more this will become a profession of choice for them.


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