Diversity has been a hot button topic in the corporate world. Enterprises more and more realise they’ve unwittingly been practising favouritism, mostly with men with the same background. Building a team around similar characters can stifle innovation, knows Ben Watkins of Intrinsic Executive Search. He also notices that age is often not taken into account when tackling the lack of diversity.
Diversity in SaaS
The discussion on diversity often focuses on the inclusion of more women in the male-dominated workplace of SaaS enterprises. Despite there are some ways to go, there are signs things are slowly improving says Ben Watkins. He is managing director of Intrinsic Executive Search, where he dedicates his time to finding the best C-level Executives for SaaS companies all over Europe.
A recent SaaS benchmark report from Openview asked 1,200 people from around the globe about their workplace, colleagues and leadership. 42 per cent of respondents had one or more female Board of Director member. That’s up from 38 per cent last year and nearly 50 per cent more than in 2017, says Watkins: “A driving force behind the growth could be the California Government intervention with their boardroom diversity law that was signed in 2018.”
However, not all numbers paint a similar picture. Intrinsic Search also keeps a close eye on the progression of inclusion and equality in SaaS. Their findings are, unfortunately, less optimistic when viewed from a diversity point of view.
“We’ve been monitoring Chief Revenue Officer hires over the last twelve months as they have been announced in the press and on Linkedin”, says Watkins. “We noted a total of 180 new CRO’s. From the 180 hires, only 30 of them were female. That is just 17 per cent.”
Ageism in the world of SaaS
It’s one of the reasons Watkins thinks it is crucial to let someones’ skills and experience define whether he or she is the best candidate for the job. Especially the ‘experience’ part brings Watkins to an element of discrimination that he thinks is often overlooked in the discussion about diversity: ageism.
Watkins: “This is perhaps more common than you think when it comes to hiring. We often hear from individuals who are 50 years or older who find it extremely tough to get hired by SaaS firms.” A survey by Intrinsic Search that gathered feedback from 400 European CXO, VP and Director Level SaaS Executives operating across over 10 different European countries seemed to confirm.
Tough to hide age
Over 35 per cent of the respondents believe the B2B SaaS industry is ageist when it comes to hiring, a minority (22 per cent) disagrees. ‘Being young’ often seems to be an essential quality that employers are looking for. With photographs on LinkedIn profiles, age is a tough thing to hide.
Watkins stresses that being over 50 years of age does not disqualify anyone from being a SaaS Executive. “We often hear that once a SaaS sales rep is past 50, there’s much less gas in the tank. Less hunger or energy. We often get the request to ‘find someone who is on the way up and hungry’. A request we always ignore. Why do some believe that someone in their 30’s has more chance of success than someone in their 50’s or 60’s when it comes to selling SaaS?”
‘Judge everyone on an individual basis’
How can individuals navigate their way around not being selected due to their age? Adding some mystery might help to take the first hurdle. “When writing your CV, we suggest making it tough for someone to guess your age”, says Watkins. “Never include your date of birth, or make it easy for the reader to guess your age. Remove your years of early study and mentions of employment back in the ’80s.”
In the end, it’s not the age, gender, cultural background that makes a SaaS sales rep good or bad, concludes Watkins. “There are lazy and bad sales reps at any age: 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years old. Judge every applicant on an individual basis. Attitude is King. There are many 50+ years old’s out there who are extremely hungry to make as much money as possible and possess a considerable drive and a wonderful attitude to smash their sales targets.”