Re-Imagining Networking for Women- Part II

Reshma Mawji

Reshma is the Content and Community Specialist at Mumsvillage, a Lover of Fitness, and a Passionate Gender Equality Activist.

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As part of our WomenWork group activities for the month, we organized a fun evening of interaction, cocktails and food, and had a panel discussion on “Re-Imagining Networking for Women”. The goal was for the event to be as informal and intimate as possible, and to deliberate 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.

Here is Part 2 of the Highlights from the Event. If you haven’t already, check out Part 1!

Women know networks are important to their success, but more often than not, they do not devote their time and energy to building the right sort, because most of the time they feel like they have to prepare heavily to do this. This is counterpart to organic networking, which feels more natural to many women.

As such, the group discussed that it is easier to form a human connection with someone on your team at work than with a person you met at an industry reception. Maybe start with the network around you? Get to know the head of the Marketing department better? Introduce as many people as you can to one another such as neighbours, friends, colleagues? Or even a connector and from this build a larger network? It’s worth a try!

Just do it!

Women tend to sell themselves short especially when speaking to a potential client or investor, and many times feel intimidated (especially because most networking events are swamped with men). According to Herminia Ibara, a professor of Organizational Behaviour at INSEAD Business School, networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority. The only way to become convinced that networking is a priority is to just start doing it and see the results for yourself.

When you hear there is a cocktail event at Brioche Cafe? Take an hour off and attend!

 

Due to all other personal responsibilities, women find it difficult to constantly follow up. It is important to make time to build relationships over time through continuous conversations and follow ups, as this shows commitment, and who knows, this could turn out to be a great friendship! In addition to this, each month, deepen a connection with someone, and try to add a new person to your network. Those people could be at all levels, both junior and senior to you. Ignore the conventional wisdom that only people above you in the corporate hierarchy can be useful. Talk to the women in your chamas and WhatsApp groups, you’ll be surprised.

 

Many women seem to have negative first experiences with networking, and so they start opting out in the future- or attend and don’t part take genuinely. Participate 100% in events when you accept an invitation, and instead of seeing it as a place to leverage people, just see it as a place to learn and enjoy yourself. At least you’ll have a good meal and a good laugh.

 

Often at work off-sites or on business travel there is a great opportunity to network after the day’s meetings. The group goes out to dinner and drinks. Many women have found this can be awkward, because the men in the group (especially when a male dominated group) drink heavily and often their behavior starts becoming inappropriate conversation. There have also been many situations where men make unwelcome advances. This discourages a lot of women from attending, especially those women with families. This could however be a great chance to “Lean in” and try change the system? Suggest lunch-time gatherings instead?

 

Networking is more than a physical meeting. In today’s world, networking can happen through various digital tools! When your friend invites you to a Biashara WhatsApp group, or a WomenWork Facebook group, accept the invitations and be open to the fact that you could meet a potential partner virtually!

 

Happy Networking! Make it fun, organic, and innovative!

 

Here are some links to articles that were discussed during the event.

http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20131119-the-networking-trick-women-neglec

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/marilyn-nagel/women-network-differently_b_8259538.html

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/04/why-strategic-networking-is-harder-for-women/

https://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2015/nov/12/sisterhood-20-why-traditional-networking-isnt-working-for-women

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