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Business Development – Is it A Boy’s Club?

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I have to admit, sometimes it's hard writing about situations that speak to women in business because I don't always think "like a woman." I think "like a person running a business." But I recently had a discussion with a recruiter we're working with who slapped me back into reality: in this man's world of business we're just trying to inch our way to the top.

One day my CFO and I were talking with a recruiter about hiring a business development person for our company, to support our partnership goals. We got to the point where we were outlining the type of person we'd like:

' They have to be smart
' Great if they have actually worked in a small business since they'd be doing deals with large companies that serve small business
' The deals have long lead times (sometimes 6 months) and sometimes even longer lead times to get up and running, so patience is a virtue
' Once the deal is up and running, they have to be great at maintaining relationships and discovering other potential opportunities

"This isn't your typical Biz Dev position," the recruiter said. "Normally Biz Dev comes out of a sales background. This isn't your typical sales guy who walks into a company, does a deal, hands it off and moves on."

He was right, that's not the type of person we wanted at all. So I shouted "A woman!" Hey, I'd be fine with any qualified candidate, but all bullets made me think a woman might be great. Then I got some harsh reality.

He proceeded to go on and tell me that it's going to be really tough to find a woman for this role. Most sales and business development roles in the industry are filled by men. He said that one reason you don't usually find women in roles like this is because of travel: if you have 20% travel in the job description, women who have families just don't go down that path. In fact, he didn't know of a single woman who he could even go after for this role.

Sad, I thought. Even sadder was when I was talking to a few (very few) women I know who are in business development roles. One told me a story about how she needed to hire someone in her group and her boss told her to "hire a man for the role because he's going to need to smoke cigars and play golf to schmooze clients, and a woman wouldn't ever do it."

But it makes sense.

This year I am a finalist for the E&Y Entrepreneur of The Year. Out of the 27 finalists for Northern California there are two women. I'm also part of a CEO group that meets regularly and I'm one of very few active women participants out of hundreds of CEOs.

Then I came across a statistic on CNN.com that said in 2006 the top 25 highest-paid executive men made $1.3 billion, 4.35 times more than the top 25 best-paid women. And no woman cracked the ranks of top 25 highest-paid executives overall.

More businesses have to start opening doors to women in these roles and more women should be going after roles like this. My door was open, but I hired a very qualified man. Like I said, I'd have been fine with any qualified candidate.

Barak Obama is on a hiring spree and women seem to be a big part of who he's hiring. He's looking at everyone who he thinks is qualified, many of which are women. Hillary Clinton recently said the glass ceiling now has millions of cracks in it because of her role in the presidential candidacy, but boy was she right, it is far from broken.

Last updated: Mar 27, 2009

JANINE POPICK

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and social media marketing tools for small businesses. The company was ranked No. 4,882 on the 2013 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick




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