This past July, some 600 people showed up at an industry conference in Atlanta on selling, offered by consultant (and REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR columnist) Phil Rea. Most attendees were salespeople. Or, more accurately, most were salesmen.

On the afternoon of the first day, a panel entitled “Million Dollar Super Salespeople” got underway. Up first was Pam Fry, who sells for Virginia Beach replacement company Mr. Rogers Windows. She pointed out that she had researched conference demographics before coming and found them wanting in one important respect.

“Only 4% of the people here are women,” she said, to a sea of male faces.

This was one of those facts that is obvious, but startling merely for having been stated.

There was some throat-clearing, followed by the usual collective din of remarks exchanged at decibel levels intended to assure privacy. Some minutes later, the questions started. Had Ms. Fry or the other female panelist (Patricia Nicolini, of Alure, on Long Island) encountered resistance on account of their gender?

Fry, a single mother of five who last year sold $1.7 million worth of replacement windows, is no fiery feminist. She is, however, a straight shooter. “If I can do it,” the self-effacing woman told listeners, “there are tons of women who can do it.” Her message? Replacement contractors could do themselves a favor by dispensing with old-fashioned notions of gender roles and hiring women to sell.

Obviously some of the best companies in the industry have done just that. In doing so, they've upended the conventional wisdom that men are somehow inherently better at presenting home improvement projects to homeowners.

And what most would tell you is that the credibility, resourcefulness, attention to detail, and competitiveness of women salespeople are typically higher than those of their male compatriots.

Women often excel at in-home sales, simply because they come across as less intimidating. “They're the industry's best-kept secret,” said the vice president of a Connecticut home improvement company, a year ago, at another conference.

So why aren't more of them selling windows, sunrooms, siding, gutter protection, and roofing?

Only one reason: Force of habit.

Jim Cory, Editor