EPISODE 499: What Does Equity and Inclusion look like Post Exodus for Women in Sales with Gina Stracuzzi

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This episode features an interview with IES Women in Sales Program Director Gina Stracuzzi.]

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GINA’S TIP: “If you’re a woman in sales, figure out what you want to happen, what you need to happen to be successful in what’s going to be this new hybrid version of our existence for a while. Figure out what it is you need and what you want, and how you’re going to make it happen. Reach out to me if you want a mentor, because I’m happy to do that. If you’re employer, or a male ally, think about how you can help the women in your office feel a little less like either they’re missing out if they’re not there, or overwhelmed if they are there. Ask them what they need and what they’re dealing with. That’s something we can all do for each other. How are you doing? What’s going on in your world?


Fred Diamond: Thank you so much. Welcome to another Sales Game Changers Podcast. My name is Fred diamond. I’m the co-founder of The Institute for Excellence in Sales, and a host and producer of four Sales Game Changer virtual learning sessions and podcasts per week.

Every Tuesday is our Women in Sales Show, and today, I have the host of that, Gina Stracuzzi. She runs the IES, Women in Sales Program. We’re going to be talking about something really exciting that’s coming up on May 13th in Northern Virginia. It’s The Women in Sales Leadership Elevation Conference. Gina, the mission of the Institute for Excellence in Sales is to help sales leaders attract, retain, motivate, and elevate top tier sales talent. It’s great to see and I’m very excited about this conference.

The timing is right, it’s going to be May 13th. It’s going to be in Northern Virginia in Tyson’s Corner at the Westin Tyson’s Corner Hotel. You put together, Gina, an amazing agenda. It’s going to be highlighting a lot of great topics that are very pertinent for women in sales.

Also, for sales professionals in general, no matter what their sex is, but we’re definitely focusing on women in sales and it’s going to be a great complement to the Women in Sales Leadership Forum Program that you do. Gina, a lot of people have heard you on the other side of the mic, where you have conducted interviews with women and sales leaders from great companies and authors and consultants who are women in sales. Every month, we do what we call our Fresh Voices show where you interview some emerging sales leaders who have attended the Women in Sales Leadership Forum.

You have the conference, but before we talk about the conference, I want to talk about you for a second. You’re passionate about helping women in sales achieve more from their careers. Tell us a little bit about where that comes from.

Gina Stracuzzi: Thank you, Fred, for asking that question. I am so excited about this conference. I appreciate the accolades, but I am not doing this by myself. You’re a big part of it and we have our helpers behind the scenes and of course, our amazing speakers, which we’ll get to shortly.

My drive for elevating women into sales leadership, just women in sales in general, but into sales leadership comes from my career. I’ve spent my whole career in either sales or business development of some form. I got a really rough start to my selling career when I lived and moved to Dallas from New York, and got into the commodities business by a weird set of circumstances and then decided to go for my license. It was just hellish what the men put me through in that journey.

What I realized is once you can work your way around those things, there is so much freedom and benefits to being in sales. Being a woman in sales, we’re so good at it. I just want to see more and more women get into it and take advantage of the lucrative nature of sales, and be good at what they do and love it.

You fast forward all these years later, 20-25 years. I was a little dismayed when I started working with larger corporations again to hear women still struggling with some of the same things – not any of the hellish stuff I went through, that’s for sure. The companies are so great now, but just their own kind of concerns about how to make their careers flourish in what is still quite often a male-dominated world. That’s really the impetus behind the forum.

It has been an incredible journey. The women that come through the forum are awesome women. They’re talented, they’re driven, they are committed. The companies that send them to the forum are really dedicated to helping women. It’s a perfect crescendo, if you will, of how I got into sales, what I wanted my legacy to be, which was to help more women get into sales and then get into sales leadership, if that’s what they wanted for their careers.

Fred Diamond: We’ve had some amazing women who’ve participated in the Women in Sales Leadership Forum. Salesforce has been a gold sponsor, Intel has been a sponsor, Oracle, Cvent, so many amazing companies. How does what you just told us, how does that represent itself in the Women in Sales Leadership Forum that you run?

Gina Stracuzzi: What I did in talking to the women that help me facilitate the program that the trainers and the coaches and the road warriors, as I call them, the women that have made it to the top of their game. They share their stories of things they got really wrong and things they got really right and things they wish they knew. That is the key to the success of the forum, it is your career on your terms. What is it you want to make happen in your career?

How are you going to use that in your current position to make sure you get to the next stop? That shows up in many ways, it’s working with the participants to have them think about, “How do you want to ask for what you want? How do you volunteer for a new project?” Or say, “Look, I’m really good at this, and this is something I’m passionate about. Let me help with it.”

That is things that women aren’t as accustomed to saying in the workplace as men are. It’s really about opening the box, talking about everything that we want, the fears we might have, what we feel might be holding us back, who might be standing in our way, if it’s an obnoxious coworker, or just our own concerns about things and figuring out, “Okay, these are these are what you’re dealing with, what are you going to do about it? What’s your plan?” Helping them draft a plan, put it into action. Everyone that facilitates the forum absolutely loves it.

Fred Diamond: The response that I’ve gotten from not just the women who’ve participated, but from the employers who have sent women to the forum, the women have said, “It’s been life changing for them.” The way I like to tell people is, “If your career is getting better, your family life is getting better, and your household is getting better, your company is going to be higher performing.” The results of the forum are absolutely tremendous.

We’re doing the conference, it’s the Women in Sales Leadership Elevation Conference, it’s May 13th, Tyson’s Corner in Northern Virginia. For people listening around the globe, it’s a short drive from Philadelphia. It’s a nice, easy drive from New York. The place is further South, it’s a pretty easy flight in. We’re getting people who are coming in from all over the country, which is actually very, very cool. We’re doing the conference, tell us what your goals are? Then we’re going to start getting deep into what we’re going to be discussing. What are your goals for the conference?

Gina Stracuzzi: They’re multifaceted. A lot of it, Fred, comes out of things that we’ve talked about in the forum, topics that I want to share on a wider stage. Things I know women want to discuss. It is not like, “Should I be wearing my hair up now that we’re off camera, in person?” Not that kind of stuff at all. It is, “What does the world look like? How am I going to reinvigorate my career?” A lot of women are just plain exhausted. Absolutely exhausted after the last two years juggling childcare and homeschooling and sometimes ill parents.

It’s just a lot. I wanted the day to be this multifaceted day where it’s a celebration of, “Oh my God, we made it through it.” [Laughs] A way to just get back into networking and seeing people out and talking about our careers and talking about our jobs, and our companies. Just taking everything and celebrating it. Elevating the conversation in an in-person environment.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great way to think about it. The agenda you and the team have pulled together, it’s a nice combination of some great keynotes, which we’ll talk about, some amazing breakouts. Then there’s also a whole lot of opportunities to meet people you haven’t seen in two years, and to meet new people.

We’re bringing together and looking at some of the companies that have already signed up and nice cross section of industries. There’s going to be a great energy, it’s going to be a great day to learn, to meet, and connect. One of the highlights, Gina, is we’re going to be releasing a new report from the Institute for Excellence in Sales. It’s called What Does Equity and Inclusion look like Post Exodus?

For people who are listening, you’ve pulled together a couple of panel discussions recently, roundtables, if you will, with Chief Culture Officers from some amazing companies across a wide spectrum of industries. You got really deep into how are they handling DEI&B? How are they achieving their DEI&B goals? We’re going to be releasing this paper, this Executive Report, leading up to the conference.

Then you’re also going to be holding a panel discussion. The panel is going to be led by Hang Black, who you’ve had on The Women in Sales Podcast before. She is a sales enablement leader at Juniper Networks. She’s also the author of an amazing book. Tell us why we’re producing the paper, the Executive Report, and what are your expectations for the panel?

Gina Stracuzzi: Let me just back up a little bit and say that the roundtable discussions were nothing short of amazing. We had Oracle represented, Microsoft, we had SAIC. Top industry leaders at this table openly talking about the issue of how best to help women, women of color, and underrepresented communities, and bring them into sales. Everyone knows that when your salesforce represents the community at large, you do better.

When there’s a diversity of voices and a diversity of opinions, it’s a great thing. It’s a beautiful thing. From those roundtables I was just so enamored with how open and respectful and just really caring these employers were and their willingness to say, “We’ve got a lot of work to do after the pandemic.” We were just getting some steam going on hiring more and more women and more and more people of color and then the pandemic hit.

Now, we’re half in the office and half out of the office. Everybody’s scratching their head, and they’ve all worked very hard to put policies into place. There’s a real openness and willingness to say, let’s try this for six months and if it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else, because they want to get it right.

Hats off to these employers, because they really do care. Everyone that knows IES knows that we’re member-driven and sponsor-driven, and it was our members and sponsors talking to us on the podcast, and in the forum, saying, “We’ve got to do something.” This was our way of helping the members and sponsors of IES address this issue. It is going to be an Executive Report that all members will get.

As you mentioned, will be released at the conference. This panel discussion is going to be amazing, because it’s men and women from the employer standpoint, there’s different race and ethnicity that will be on the panel. We’re really going to drill down on what came out of those roundtables and what’s in that report. Hang, being a Vietnamese immigrant and really making a name for herself in Silicon Valley, is the ideal person to lead this.

She has walked the walk.  I’ll probably get this wrong but she likes to say, “I’m not a woman fighting for equal rights in a company. I’m an executive trying to elevate more women.” She takes this very seriously and I know it’s going to be a great conversation. It’s really something that not just the participants, I’m hoping employers will actually come and listen to the questions and listen to the answers. Take their copy of the report back with them, and figure out, “What are our next steps?”

Fred Diamond: We’ll get wide distribution on the report. I’m excited. I actually watched the roundtables, we recorded them. It was quite illuminating. One of the cool things about the Institute for Excellence in Sales is a lot of the companies that are members are progressive companies. They’re great places to work, hence why they would join something like the Institute for Excellence in Sales, because they’re committed to being a great place to work. It was illuminating to hear some of the things. Again, the conference is on May 13th, who should attend the conference?

Gina Stracuzzi: I get asked that a lot. Yes, it is about women in sales and elevating them. A good portion of it is, how are you going to help yourself get elevated? The other side of that is, from an employer standpoint, if you’re a VP of Sales, or even if you’re a Culture Officer and you want to hear what women in sales are saying in a relaxed environment, not thinking about who’s listening from a career standpoint, or a colleague standpoint or anything like that.

Just women sharing their thoughts, their journeys, their ideas, what they are hoping will happen when they go back to work. There’s a lot being spoken about, and you heard it in the roundtables, about really being flexible in how women have to show up and be present, but also making it equitable, so that everybody gets the same amount of face time with bosses. It is really a day for anyone that’s a woman in sales or employs them. There’s something for everybody.

Fred Diamond: We have a great agenda as well. We talked about the DEI&B panel, where we’re going to be presenting the paper. Teresa Carlson will be doing the keynote, and she’s going to be talking about what’s next for women in sales and the companies that employ them. The Institute for Excellence in Sales every year gives out a Lifetime Achievement Award.

This year in 2022, we’re giving it to Dave Rey with Salesforce, talking about a company that is committed to enabling its employees and its customers. Teresa was our Lifetime Achievement recipient in 2018. She’s led teams at Microsoft, Amazon, Splunk. What are your expectations for Teresa? Why should people be excited about the opening kickoff?

Gina Stracuzzi: If you don’t know, Teresa, you should come and meet her because I met her actually at that ceremony back in 2018, I believe it was. I was just blown away by her. She’s a trailblazer and she is a voice. She just has this amazing personality, this laid-back southern charm that you don’t expect to come out of the mouth of this woman who has led these massive organizations. She’s very down to earth and she knows her stuff. She’s been around as a woman in sales leader for 20 plus years. She is really at that point in her career where she wants to make sure that she’s sharing her knowledge and she’s really helping elevate other women.

I couldn’t be more pleased to have her. She’s really been somebody that I have looked up to since I met her. I love her stories and how she got into sales. The public sector is really not for the faint of heart. When she was getting started and got her first big breaks, there were no women around. The fact that she’s still standing and has lead all these organizations really should say something to everyone.

Fred Diamond: We saw her give her award acceptance speech at the IES which is tremendous. I’ve seen her speak in multiple places. She always provides some great value. We’ve got some great sessions we’re going to be doing at the conference.

We have how to reestablish your executive presence with passion after two years on Zoom. How to become unstoppable. Leveraging pivotal moments in your life and discover your true superpower. Not feeling it these days? How to revive your ambition while sidestepping burnout.

You pulled together a tremendous agenda. We have some great speakers, some great people who are going to be leading some of these panels. I believe one of our favorite speakers is actually a finalist for the Institute for Excellence in Sales, our Speaker of the Year, Queirra Fenderson also is going to be leading one of the breakouts, which I’m very, very excited about. It’s not just the learning, it’s not just that, but we’re also going to be celebrating like we talked about, we’re going to have plenty of opportunities for networking.

There’s going to be a fun networking, happy hour to close down. Once again, it’s May 13th. It’s in Tyson’s Corner at the Westin Tyson’s Corner. If you’re coming in from out of town, we do have a block of rooms that are reserved for you as well. Gina, to wrap up here, congratulations on pulling together this tremendous agenda. There’s so many great things that are going to be happening on Friday, May 13th. What are the key things that you want the conference attendees to come away with?

Gina Stracuzzi: Gosh, I want them to know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It is time to really revamp our careers and get out there, make some money, get the raises and promotions that we want and really help companies advance so that they can help advance us. One session that isn’t on that list you read is the idea and the value of collaboration over competition. We’re really dedicated in the forum to making sure that women don’t feel the need to compete with each other.

Myself, Gigi Schumm that is also a facilitator of the forum and Teresa, we can all tell you that we were always pitted against each other in those opportunities. That doesn’t have to be that way anymore. I want people to come away, so excited, and so believing in everything that is possible for their careers, with an idea of how they’re going to make it happen.

Fred Diamond: That’s excellent. Gina, once again, I want to commend you for the work that you’re doing for women in sales. One of the really cool things about the program that you’ve developed, I mentioned this in the beginning is we’ve had over 120/130 women who have gone through the leadership forum. I’ve heard from at least half of them, who said that the program that you’ve pulled together has been life-changing. It’s nice to hear that, but then you think about it. Most of these women have households where they’re wives and mothers and of course, they’re daughters.

If that part of your life, if your career’s going well and you’re getting satisfaction, then your home life is going to be better. It’s just bringing so much goodness forward. That really is the intention behind all the programs. I just want to commend you again, on the job that you’ve done to help women in sales realize their potential, and give them an opportunity to meet other women like them so that they can continue to grow. We love the career of sales. There’s so much good, that’s why we have the Institute for Excellence in Sales. It’s a noble profession, as our friend Lisa Earle McLeod likes to say.

Gina, we end every Sales Game Changers Podcast episode with something that people should do right now. Obviously, we’ve already told them to go register for the conference, which hopefully they’re doing right now. Give us another action step. Something specific you would like women to do or men who are listening to today’s podcast, something you would like them to do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

Gina Stracuzzi: You stole my thunder because I was going to say, “Go register.” [Laughs] If you’re a woman in sales, figure out what you want to happen, what you need to happen to be successful in what’s going to be this new hybrid version of our existence for a while. Figure out what it is you need and what you want, and how you’re going to make it happen. Reach out to me if you want a mentor, because I’m happy to do that.

If you’re employer, or even a male ally, think about how you can help the women in your office feel a little less like either they’re missing out if they’re not there, or overwhelmed if they are there. Ask them what they need and what they’re dealing with. That’s something we can all do for each other. How are you doing? What’s going on in your world?

Fred Diamond: Absolutely. You just used the term ally. This isn’t exclusive just for women, men are welcome as well. We’ve heard so many great stories, too, from a lot of the women who have been on the Tuesday Women in Sales Game Changers Podcast, where they talked about some mentors that they’ve gone to who were men who helped them direct and helped them get focused and helped them take their careers. Tamara Greenspan, who you referred to before, when we had her on The Sales Game Changers Podcast, told some great stories about some of the men in her sales career who have helped her.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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