Women in leadership positions in the partnership space are few and far between. They currently hold only 26.7% of tech-related jobs so those who lead in the space are pioneers.
It’s not easy. Women are criminally underrepresented in leadership positions in B2B SaaS and tech at large. Not only don’t they get the recognition they deserve, they do the boots-on-the-ground work that helps businesses win and drive revenue and continue to take on the invisible work of keeping their team and company running smoothly. This was the theme of PartnerStack’s latest Women Leading Partnerships (Part 2) event.
With alarming stats like 1 in 3 women considering leaving the workforce or down-shifting their careers due to high burnout, and 39% of women acknowledging gender bias as a barrier for tech job access, we spoke with women B2B and partnership leaders on how they lead in the space.
In case you missed it, you can enjoy the full live recording below:
Use tailored communications
Elisa Reggiardo, partner marketing at Slite, based in Lisbon says that far too often women have to balance being nice with being too aggressive.
“The place of a woman within this ecosystem can also be interpreted in many ways depending on who is across the room,” she says. “Sometimes it's the typical ‘if you're too assertive, then you're aggressive. If you don't speak up, then you're hurt when you’re ignored.”
Known as the likeability trap, women often have to trade getting what they want for being ‘liked’ in the office. It’s even tougher when you’re a leader. Elise suggests taking the time to understand the person across from you and tailor your communications style to them.
“It's really about adapting and reading which type of communication they need. So I can actually get that ultimate result by getting that buy-in through communication.”
Related: Celebrating women leading partnerships.
Be confident in your product
Jess Grossman, founder of In Social, gets pitched by software companies all the time and she says the one thing everyone, not just women, should do is learn, understand and be confident in their ability to sell the product.
“You asked me to put this call on my calendar to convince me that I should use your software and you want us to be your agency partner, but you're not even prepared to have this conversation,” she says.
One thing Grossman says is to be prepared to answer questions or bring someone else on the team who can support you. As she puts it, “You're using my time, you might as well make the most of it.”
Delegation is good leadership
Research from Columbia Business School, found that women are less likely to delegate. This can hurt their career as they have less time for big-picture work and for mentoring. It’s easy to just do it yourself, says Adrienne Coburn, director of Global Partner Programs at Oyster. There are many reasons: the need for control, the need to look busy and to be involved.
Coburn’s advice is if it doesn’t fall into your KPIs, delegate. “If it's not something that you can prove the impact, consider taking it off altogether. Focus on those measurable impacts that, at the end of the day, do prove success and are the only things that people actually care about.”
Grossman has to remind her team, who are mostly women-identifying, to stop apologizing and just do the work. Excessive apologizing at work may hurt a woman’s ability to succeed professionally, according to Professor Patricia Hewlin of McGill University. While we think that we’re being polite, women are actually being perceived as incompetent and doubtful.
Celebrate your wins
Reggiardo and Coburn both say that talking about your wins can feel like bragging but in fact, talking about your wins can be strategic. “Showcasing your milestones, whether they’re little or big, is a way of sharing with the rest of the organization.” Reggiardo explains that it could trigger a conversation that allows people to ask questions, celebrate or provide new insight.
As Coburn says, “You think you're being annoying. You're not. In a day filled with Slack notifications, drawing back to KPIs to something measurable like data or revenue is really what drives and brings that communication to the forefront.”
Leaders can also help their team speak up and recognize achievements. Grossman’s company instituted a team rewards program that's based on everyone recognizing each other. Points can be collected and redeemed for fun items like sweatshirts but the real value is intangible. “It's putting the recognition on your fellow team members to make sure that you feel recognized and not always taking the onus on yourself,” she says. Sounds perfect for introverts!
You may also like: Why authenticity matters in the workplace.
Know your champions — and use them!
It’s a fact that there are more men in the B2B and partnership space but that just means leveraging that power and willingness to help resolve issues and open doors. That’s because men can and want to be key allies for women in the space, says Grossman. She cites an example where she worked with a man who used his connections and knowledge to resolve an issue and help salvage a partnership.
Reggiardo agrees, “The biggest way that anybody can advocate for you, especially if they're coming from the C-suite, is just asking the questions. Where do partnerships fit into this question, initiative or project?”
Automation can support the work
Not to blow our own horn here at Partnerstack but automation helps leaders in the space. Grossman called it out as a handy solution to getting time back. Cobourn says that it can be difficult to provide measurable KPIs with partnerships but automation helps.
“It helps measure rev share that's coming in from partners, different touch points that are helping with engagement, different actions have to be taken with partner onboarding. All of those things that can go very unnoticed can then have numbers and data behind them.”
Switching off — literally and figuratively
Leaders need to recharge in order to successfully, well, lead. That means disconnecting from work. Reggiardo uninstalls Slack on Friday and reinstalls it on Monday. She also builds flexibility into her day. One way is to do walking meetings.
Grossman also disconnects from work. She has empowered her team to handle a crisis but they also know that she can be reached if needed. Personally, she likes to work out in the morning (throwing in some self-care) and decompresses by playing with her Nintendo Switch.
Using a combination of automation, advocacy, technology, allyship and empowerment, these women are redefining what it means to be a leader in the B2B space. Carving out a space not only means that more women can enter — but all of them can succeed.