There’s no question that the U.S. direct selling salesforce is predominantly female—in fact, more than three-quarters of today’s distributors are women.
But, did you know that this gender gap has narrowed consistently, year after year, since 2008? In fact, just five years ago, 86.4 percent of U.S. direct selling distributors were female—compared to 76.6 percent today.
A number of factors have certainly contributed to this trend. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of direct selling companies in the services sector, particularly those selling utilities, which typically attract a larger percentage of male sellers than other categories such as cosmetics and housewares. Similarly, the market share for health and wellness products in the direct selling realm has increased in recent years and the relative percentage of men selling these types of products is larger than in other categories.
Additionally, with the rise of social media platforms and mobile technology, direct sellers are able to tap into a wider variety of social circles from which they can recruit new distributors. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn enable direct sellers to expand their outreach efforts to include more than their immediate friends and family members.
Perhaps, yet another cause for the recent increase in male direct sellers is rooted in national labor force statistics. One possibility is that the narrowing of the gender gap in direct selling could be inversely related to the widening of the gender gap in the overall job market.
According to a recent report in the Washington Post Express, as the U.S. job market continues to undergo a slow recovery process, women have rebounded from the recession faster than men. The report stated that women have actually regained nearly all the jobs they lost during the height of the recession, but men are still 2.1 million jobs short.
The article notes that one of the contributors to the job recovery’s gender gap is the fact that industries such as retail, education, restaurants and hotels have been hiring the fastest—and each represents an industry in which women comprise a greater portion of the workforce.
But, as men await new opportunities in fields such as construction and manufacturing, direct selling offers a helping hand. Whether or not it is later proven that the recession has directly contributed to the narrowing of the gender gap in direct selling, the recession has without a doubt left many men looking for flexible sources of income as they weather the recovery process.
It’s also important to remember that nearly 20 percent of total U.S. direct selling sales were from the services category last year, meaning that men—and women—who once shied away from selling traditional products via the direct selling business model are finding opportunities that better fit their interests. Year after year, these very individuals grow their independent direct selling businesses, earn an income, expand their social networks and even develop skills that can be applied to their respective full-time careers once an opportunity to do so arises.
Did the slow job recovery inspire you to launch a direct selling career? If so, share your story with us in the comment section below!