Re-Imagining Networking for Women – Part 1
Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s theme for this very important day was #PressForProgress. While we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that across the world, women are making positive gains day by day. Additionally, there’s a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism, and support, especially professionally.
As part of our WomenWork group activities for the month, we organized a fun evening of interaction, cocktails and food alongside a panel discussion on “Re-Imagining Networking for Women”. The goal was for the event to be as informal and as intimate as possible. It was also aimed deliberately to discuss if women approach networking differently from men, and the long term effects,(if any) of connecting women, and its impact at work and in society.
Please see below for some of the highlights from the discussion.
Note: These are just personal opinions and mutual expressions from a group of 20 women (in different stages of their careers) who attended the event.
— Women who attend Networking Conferences over time benefit from more promotions overtime, both financially and intellectually. One of the articles discussed at the event was a Harvard Business Review article by Shawn Anchor, which proved the fact that Women Networking Events did actually move the needle on Equality. The study shows that of women who’d signed up for a conference but had yet to attend, 18% received a promotion during that particular time period the study was conducted, compared to 42% of women who had already attended a conference. In other words, in the year after connecting with peers at the Conference for Women, the likelihood of receiving a promotion doubled, and so did pay increase.
— Women tend to separate their work and social circles whereas men’s overlap. Men often have some of the same people in both circles – they will watch a sporting event or go for dinner with some of those work contacts. Women, by contrast, are more likely to have two separate lists: one for work activities and one for social activities. Research also shows that this tendency is exacerbated once women have children because so much of the personal activity tends to be organized around them, and those activities are not always relevant to the work domain. Maintaining separate spheres therefore, can put women at a disadvantage- it is more time consuming to manage two separate networks. You can kill two birds with one stone when you are talking shop over lunch, and you’ll be better informed about what is going on.
— Women often know what to give at networking events and not what to get- but even more so, women hardly talk about their achievements as openly as men do. Men, on the other hand have more clarity when they are in a networking situation or a gathering where they can make the most of a professional opportunity. They have no problem talking about their triumphs and their value, while reaching for what they need from the other person in return. Therefore, the important thing is to show up and, of course, speak up so people know who you are, how you think, and what you have to offer. It is important to have a game plan before attending – know what you want out of the event or people there. Once women get this cadence right, the act of networking can feel easier and even empowering
Ask yourself: what’s the worst thing that could happen?
— On the contrary, networking can sometimes have a very negative connotation to it due to its aloof “selling yourself” aspect, which women cannot relate with, as women tend to be more nurturing and deep. It is possible to create a positive connotation to such events, and instead view them as opportunities to share needs and learning experiences, these could be chances to make a friend with whom you can grab a coffee later because you realized you had a few things in common. It can and should be fun too!
— As a follow up to this, one of the most important highlights of the discussion was the fact that networking can and should happen in different spaces! We tend to have this illusion that networking has to happen in an “intercontinental hotel” somewhere with corporate men and women in blue suits and ties. This isn’t and shouldn’t be the case. Whether it is operation, personal, or strategic networking, the purpose is to help you secure support, resources, and partnerships to boost your professional development, and this can take place in any space.
Ever tried introducing yourself to a woman sitting next to you on a flight or a man standing in front of you while you wait to order your chai for the day?
— Men recommend more men, because more often than not, men recommending women creates suspicions of relationships outside of the workplace (unfortunate, but these suspicions happen!). This is disadvantageous to women because women professional networks are generally smaller (as discussed above) and because of the scant numbers of women in power positions, which are only changing at glacial speed.
— Women generally have smaller networks because they tend to connect with those that they share deeper connections and values with. Men on the other hand see their networks as a way to get ahead, and are more interested in what can come out mutual benefit these relationships can yield, hence having larger groups of friends. Women can probably not approach connections in the same ways men do, although we can learn some lessons from them about being more strategic and obtaining opportunities at senior levels. But we have to do it in ways that are authentic, and through meaningful connections that are natural to women. Maybe by sharing our goals with a friend or mentor who knows someone at an organization that could potentially be interested in your ideas and further exploring them? Its a food for thought.
These are just a few insights from the event, watch this space for Part 2 of the highlights!
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