UC Faculty Awards 2021: Jane Sojka
College of Business marketing professor, researcher honored as Distinguished Teaching Professor
“Try it, you’ll like it!”
For University of Cincinnati Marketing Professor Jane Sojka, PhD, MBA, those five words are her mantra to help women business students recognize sales as a potential career pathway.
But it’s been a long road — of course development, of research and applying new learnings — to close the gender gap in sales, a field that has seen a mere 3% increase of women in the last decade.
“Recruiters wanted diversity and they wanted women,” recalls Sojka. “And yet I could not get women to take a sales course. I tried everything.”
Applying a grant she received from Proctor & Gamble, Sojka developed her ground-breaking Women in Sales course in UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business as a first step.
“We have this opportunity to change perceptions about sales,” says Sojka. “It’s empathy, it’s building relationships, it’s helping people, it’s problem solving."
The Women in Sales course doesn’t just seek to close the gender gap in sales, but the gender gap in confidence. It fosters the positive relationship between selling confidence and the motivation to sell, building on three foundational concepts:
- Failure is an event, not a person.
- Don’t wait to be perfect.
- Ask for what you want.
The student outcomes of the course provided points of proof for Sojka and her fellow researchers, Marketing Department Head Karen Machleit, PhD, and former Lindner postdoctoral research fellow Corinne Novell, PhD. Their paper, “Identifying and Closing Gender Gaps in Sales Education,” was published in the Journal of Selling in 2020. Sojka and Novell spoke with journal guest editor Stefanie Boyer, PhD, about their findings in early 2021.
Sojka’s innovative approach to closing the gender gap — in sales and in confidence — has paid off.
The Women in Sales course attracts more than 250 women each year. Sojka was awarded the Innovation in Teaching Award from the American Marketing Association in 2016. The Center for Professional Selling, which Sojka founded, has been ranked as “outstanding” by the Sales Education Foundation for seven years running. The Professional Sales minor she developed attracts more than 120 students from majors across campus. Her 2018 TEDxUCincinnati talk, “Empowering Women Benefits Everyone,” presented the ideas of resilience following failure to an even broader audience outside UC. And finally, the Varsity Sales Team she created has competed and bested established sales programs from other universities in national competitions.
“We certainly have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way,” says Sojka. “I am continually energized and inspired by the new faces I see every semester and from other educators adopting this approach in other disciplines.”
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