The WOMEN IN SALES Initiative 

What did you want to achieve? 

The Sales function, especially in the alcohol industry, has predominantly seen a higher representation of men compared to women. There exists a stereotype associated with the ‘salesman’ role, leading to several biases and misconceptions about women in the field. The mission of Women in Sales is to bring about a constructive change within the Sales function by focusing on initiatives that aim to attract, retain and develop women in this profession, while fostering an inclusive workplace.  

What did you do?

HEINEKEN Operating Companies worldwide aim to boost female representation in salesforces by 2025, closely monitoring progress on a quarterly basis. In 2022, each Operating Company devised action plans encompassing attraction, retention, development and inclusive workplace. Sales Directors engaged in dialogues to understand the specific challenges faced by women. 

On a global scale, a robust communication strategy engages the sales workforce, fosters idea-sharing and addresses women’s sales challenges. Special Women in Sales awards are presented at Commerce Week, an annual gathering of HEINEKEN’s commerce employee. The Global Commerce Talent Committee, including the CCO, ensures that there is female representation in candidates to senior sales vacancies. They even consider external candidates when necessary and conduct interviews with diverse panels to combat bias. 

In 2023, an external campaign on LinkedIn will further bolster HEINEKEN’s employer brand, alongside women’s roundtables discussions where senior sales leaders engage in proactive conversations with mid-level female sales professionals to identify and tackle their specific challenges. 

What are the results so far?

The sales team at HEINEKEN comprises 30,000 individuals, with women making up 21% of the workforce. Our ambition is to have 25% of sales senior managers be female by 2025! When we launched the initiative in 2020, only 9% of senior managers were female. Since then, we have made steady progress and by the end of 2022, this figure had increased to 19%. 

Another significant metric we monitor is the Inclusion Index from our annual Climate Survey, which consists of questions designed to gauge the level of inclusion employees experience within the organization. In 2021, the Inclusion Index for the Women in Sales group was 79 and it grew to 82 in 2022. 

What have you learned? 

High-level endorsement has driven impactful actions worldwide! Leaders at both global and regional levels have made this initiative a top priority, consistently evaluating its effectiveness. Although it has a worldwide reach, the initiative is tailored to suit the specific circumstances of each operating company, even challenging established norms when required. For instance, in Brazil, we introduced the option of using cars instead of motorcycles for sales positions, resulting in an increase in female hires. In Cambodia, the implementation of inclusive parental policies, standardised recruitment practices, and flexible work policies led to a notable rise in the percentage of women in mid-management sales roles, growing from 9% to 32%. These localised efforts have had a positive impact on thousands of employees.