How Female Executives are Transforming the Workplace (Blog Series)

Mar 07, 2018
4 min read
Learn how female executives are transforming the business workplace and get to know Xactly VP of HR, Leanne Bernhardt, and former Xactly CMO, Micheline Nijmeh.

Each year, March 8 is honored as International Women’s Day, a global holiday dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in all parts of society, including social, economic, cultural and political. On this day, the International Women’s Day organization launches a campaign centered on increasing gender equality for women in the workplace.

This year, the campaign theme is Press for Progress, calling for women worldwide to “press forward and progress gender parity [by] motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.”

In honor of International Women’s Day 2018, we’re putting together a blog series to show how female executives are transforming the corporate world, starting at Xactly. We’ll also share some of the aggregate compensation data we’ve collected over 13 years of supporting variable compensation plans for more than 300,000 sales executives.

Breaking Down the Pay Barriers

In almost every industry, women are under-represented in the workforce. However, each year we’re seeing more and more women entering traditionally male-dominated fields, such as sales and finance. This is extremely prevalent in the growing number of females in leadership and executive roles. According to McKinsey, women generate 37 percent of global GDP, despite making up 50 percent of the global working-age population. If the gender gap is narrowed, McKinsey estimates that $12 trillion would be added to global GDP by 2025.

International women's day base pay

So what is causing the largest discrepancies in pay for men and women? For one, many fields like finance and sales are heavily dominated by men. Xactly Insights for Sales data finds that in these roles, women perform better in sales overall, but they’re total compensation remains lower. In sales, women have a median quota attainment eight percent higher than their male counterparts with 86 percent of women meeting quota compared to 78 percent of men. Women are also paid out a slightly higher median commission rate at 2.13 percent, compared to men at 1.30 percent. 

International women's day quota attainment

However, although women have higher quota attainment and are paid a higher commission, they have a total compensation amount lower than men, meaning their base compensation is less than men in similar roles. 

How Xactly is Changing the Status Quo

Xactly is a company focused on diversity, both in culture and employees. Prior to founding the company in 2005, Xactly CEO Chris Cabrera learned that diversity in the workplace creates a “challenging and rich environment,” which fosters creativity and innovation. In a 2006 interview with the New York Times, Cabrera said,

“I needed to hire eight people for my team. I was about halfway through, and I had one of my normal sit-downs with my boss, who was African-American, and he said, ‘“I want to go over your last four hires with you. Do you realize that they’re all basically white 23-year-old men? This isn’t a fraternity.”’ I was so embarrassed because I certainly hadn’t done that on purpose. The lesson was that we often just do what we’re comfortable with. The thing I learned that day, and every day since, was the power of diversity and the power of bringing people together from different cultural backgrounds and experiential backgrounds.”

In fact, Insights for Sales data has found that this situation is more common than one might think. Managers are more likely to hire others like themselves if they don't consciously work to avoid those biases. Because of this, men tend to build teams that are traditionally male-dominated, while women build teams that more closely reflect the population split.

International women's day hiring

With that lesson in mind, Xactly was created with diversity wired into its DNA. Today, Xactly executive board is made up of a group of individuals with unique backgrounds, and three executives are women–Micheline Nijmeh, Chief Marketing Officer; Elizabeth Salomon, Chief Financial Officer; and Leanne Bernhardt, VP of Human Resources.

Advice from Xactly Female Executives

While human resources and marketing are fields with a higher number of female employees, women are still less likely to fill executives roles. At Xactly, both of these roles are held by women who are strong leaders with executive mindsets.

Leanne Bernhardt, VP of Human Resources

Leanne Bernhardt began her career in HR “by accident” nearly 25 years ago. She originally wanted to be a teacher, but when she graduated, was placed in the HR department of a large Silicon Valley company by a temporary job agency, and fell in love with human resources, saying “the possibilities seemed endless.”

When it comes to young females getting into different careers, Bernhardt says, “Never turn down an opportunity to ‘sit at the table’–be present and participate.” When she first started out in HR, Bernhardt said she took every opportunity to network, learn, and push herself outside of her comfort zone–and it has definitely paid off.

As a female executive in HR, Bernhardt is helping build a platform for young female HR professionals to move into executive roles. She believes “greater diversity on boards is highly correlated with stronger company financial performance, [and] having an adverse set of perspectives results in better decision making. Women have a voice, and it is great to see, and be part of, this change.”

Micheline Nijmeh, Chief Marketing Officer

micheline nijmeh

Micheline Nijmeh did not initially start out her career with the goal of becoming CMO of a large company. Rather she had a love for creating, and “just wanted to learn and try new things.” To succeed in any field, Nijmeh believes in the importance of a personal brand, recommending that all young professionals “create an internal brand for yourself and execute on it” and see every job and role as a learning opportunity.

The collaborative culture at Xactly has helped her to continue learning, even as CMO. As a female executive in marketing, Nijmeh wants to help “ensure that the next generation of amazing women get the opportunity to grow their careers as well.” She recently attended a women’s leadership event and was inspired to see females in a wide variety of executive roles, including CMOs, CSOs, CTOs, CFOs, and CEOs.

Pressing for More Progress

International Women’s Day is a kickoff of yearlong action to close the gender gap in the workforce. As more women enter traditionally male-dominated fields and take on executive roles, the door is opened for young female professionals to do the same. At Xactly, the diverse culture starts with our CEO, Chris Cabrera, and touches every employee to nurture and encourage a workplace that strives for innovation and greatness–no matter who holds what role.

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Karrie Lucero
Karrie Lucero
Content Marketing Manager

Karrie Lucero is a Content Marketing Manager at Xactly. She earned marketing and journalism degrees from New Mexico State University and has experience in SEO, social media and inbound marketing.