Includes a Data Story

Research often focuses on what employees bring to companies. This study with women in rural Uttar Pradesh instead asks what sales employment can do for employees and their communities. Findings show that performing sales activities can lead not only to changes in mindset, but also to gender empowerment within the family and community. The results suggest that businesses can profitably access the vast customer base in some of the most underprivileged parts of the world while also contributing to social development.



The challenge

Typically, research often focuses on what an employee can add to a company – often financially. This research examines the reverse relation and looks at what (sales) employment can do for the employees and their communities, beyond monetary benefits. In particular, what is the impact of engaging in sales activities on women’s empowerment in terms of leadership roles within the household and leadership roles in the community, and on the community members’ perceptions of women?

The intervention

Through a randomised controlled trial with women in three rural districts in Uttar Pradesh, India, the authors show that engaging in sales activities can lead not only to psychological change in terms of IQ and personality, but also to gender empowerment in terms of female leadership within the family and the community. In doing so, they seek to shift the focus from the impact of (selling) employment on company outcomes to the impact on social development outcomes, such as gender empowerment, for the sales person and her community.

The impact

The research aims to derive a deeper understanding of how sales activities can contribute to social development by empowering women and reducing gender biases in their communities. Many multinationals are eager to access the large, relatively untapped 3.4 billion customer base in rural parts of emerging countries (Mahajan 2016). This research suggests that businesses can do so while contributing to social development in some of the most underprivileged areas in the world.

Data story

Can selling change the salesperson’s life?

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