Corporate Culture – Why Some Women Don’t Network?

I have grown up in the era of woman emancipation, equal status and opportunities and now women reservation in our political system. I strongly believe that women are at par (or superior!) with Men and there is nothing that a woman can’t do… Except one thing – Professional Networking! OK agreed, there are lot of good women networkers around – but I am pretty sure that the number is still small compared to men (Please take this with a pinch of salt, not with accusations of chauvinism). Recently, theglasshammer.com did an article  “its not too late to set career goals for 2010” featured networking as the #1 goal for women in 2010:

Women are notoriously bad at networking aggressively, unlike their male counterparts who are capable of building a network around them and using their powerful contacts to get ahead. It’s not enough to simply have a few drinks with those around you. Aside from networking aggressively, you also want to network effectively, meaning something comes of your new relationships with your peers. Whether it is a promotion, a seat on a board, or simply a mentor to help guide you through- it’s all beneficial to your career

The Timesonline.com writes in Why Women Are Such Bad Networkers,

It’s no good thinking that hard work will get you anywhere. If you want to make it to the top, you’re going to have to overcome your fear of socialising and start schmoozing like men

All said and done, I do not agree with both these articles. However, as per my experience, lot of women still don’t network.

What’s the fuss about networking anyway? Professional Networking is not a new concept, its just old wine in new bottle. As we humans evolved, the idea of networking evolved with us. Birds of Feather, Flock Together – Our inherent nature pushes us to find someone like us and who likes us, that’s hitting off  for you… So, you have all kinds of Brethren, Brotherhood, Clans, Cults, Sects, Factions, Alumni and so on and so forth cementing their place in society. Worker Unions or Trade Unions (for lower rung employees) provided the first platform for people to network professionally by discussing their grievances, issues and concern. Union’s success and bargaining power in business prompted the officials to make elite associations for executives at their own levels. Important point here is that it was all internal or specific to the company. By virtue of globalization, more opportunities and people changing their jobs more often, it went out of the realms of one organization and became more widespread. Now, active networking starts from school, college and becomes mature once you start working for an organization. One of the most successful professional network platforms, An excerpt from LinkedIn summarizes the concept succinctly:

“Your professional network of trusted contacts gives you an advantage in your career, and is one of your most valuable assets.”…………………….. We believe that in a global connected economy, your success as a professional and your competitiveness as a company depends upon faster access to insight and resources you can trust.

What could be the reason holding women back? Are the reasons only personal or specific to individual? No, there are lots of external factors as well affecting the whole game of networking professionally. Well, I see a mixture of reasons, internal and external –

Internal

#1 Most of the women are task oriented and they would network with someone till the time a particular need is fulfilled. Whereas, a successful networking relationship is often long term and goes beyond interacting just once for fulfilling a need. While men may just say a hello even when they don’t have a need to fulfill, women may just quietly opt out of the network.

#2 Women work better with men than women; though not statistically proven, I have always found women working better and efficiently with men folks. The competition factor is quite high in women-women scenario at workplace. Frankly, I have seldom seen a woman manager mentoring a woman candidate for a future leadership position. The woman managers also go with the popular notion that woman employees aren’t that reliable in crisis situations when compared to men. This partly explains why the glass ceiling exists. Lack of Sisterhood, eh?

#3 Networking needs attention and nurturing from time to time. Most women would spend spare time with family rather than exploring or strengthening their networks. Men somehow sneak time for these activities, even though it may be on expense of their family time.

External

#1 Lot of networking happens at or near “Male Ghettos” in an organization like ‘smoke area’, ‘coffee machine’ etc. which is difficult for women to penetrate…

#2 This one is sad, but true. Women who network are looked upon with a suspicious eye and talked about in the organization. Everyone is convinced that there is more than it meets to the eye, especially if they receive praise, accolades or promotion. The hurdle of image assassination associated with being networked is something that some women find difficult to cross.

#3 Strange as it may seem, I have never seen women doing a lot of undue favors. Does it something to do with the fact that women are less corrupt than a man? For your network to be strong, you need to return favors for people. These favors may be sometimes unfair, and this is where men score!

To realize true potential of your career, you must network – holds true for both men and women. It’s high time we understood that networking is not all about favor and finding jobs. And its not just for the sales and HR professionals. Everyone can benefit from networking. Be it sharing ideas, resources, collaborating with like minded, touching base with experts, get reccommendations, or simply finding an audience for what you have to share, there is a lot you can do. Plus you can definitely boost your chances of getting a job or a prospective candidate or buyer. I would say its an art, the value of which you realize once you have spent some time in your career – sooner the better!

May be Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog can help you get off the blocks…

Happy Networking…

P.S> Please do not hurl claims of chauvinism on me. If I have hurt your feelings, its purely unintentional. I sincerely apologize for the same.

You & I: Six Commandments for an ‘Equal’ Marriage

Marriage is a great institution. Not because of anything else, but because of the complexities involved. But what’s so great about it being complex? Imagine the number of people involved on both sides, the adjustment, sacrifices and compromises required, the bride shifting to a totally new set up, promises of unwavering love, domestic chores division, hygiene habits, space, individual behaviours, career decisions, family planning, moving out….phew!! Despite in the know of everything, people vie to get married one day…that’s why I truly believe marriage is a great institution!! 

Marriage has been there since the starting of evolution, with or without it being solemnised with rituals. However, when the society became civilized, and family system evolved, an average human being was supposed to complete the lifecycle by marrying, having and raising kids…. So, uncountable number of people have married, even though nothing concrete can be said, whether they lived happily ever after :)….Nothing unusual, eh?

However, in modern times, there is lot of effort being put to unearth the ‘secret code’ of successful marriage. Trying to go behind the questions like, what does it take to make it work? What should be the ‘roles and responsibilities’ of the individuals involved? Nguyen Vi Cao of Geneva School of Business believes his team has cracked the formula for a perfect wife….In my opinion, if you were to ask all the married people around you – What is the key to successful marriage?  I bet you will get all different responses. And why so; because, all of us are unique individuals. You can’t have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy…you got to look at each union on its own merits and demerits…

Quite moved by the phenomena of marriage, our national newspaper, The Times of India, has come out with a very ‘cool n hip’ matrimonial product – You & I – Equality Matrimonial, which is all about, would you believe – a democratic marriage!! So keeping in mind that in a democracy, the institutions woo the followers with a manifesto, You & I also proposes the following “Marriage Manifesto” (or shall I say commandments) which shall be abided by both the parties…:

 

There is a very interesting view on this matrimonial ad, you can read it here.

Indeed, I would completely praise the intent behind this concept, that both individuals have to be treated with equality. However, the idea of a manifesto seems ridiculous. Compartmentalising the concept of marriage in some bullet points, and fixing rules of the game – doesn’t work out that way in real life. There is much more to the story. Life is way too random and non linear to be bound in a certain rules and bulleted points. Having said all that, the very concept of this manifesto is against the ideals of marriage – it is never about ‘me’ or ‘I’ in a marriage. It is about ‘us’ or ‘we’.  All the clauses in this manifesto are just talking about what I want, rather than what we want and respecting what the other wants! In a marriage, the first thing you do is to respect other person’s viewpoint and then you sit together and chart out the kind of life you envisage…This manifesto looks like a merger contract between two parties. Sad part, however, is that 70% of mergers between companies fail…

The other thing this ad talks about is to see the married couple in isolation, which is not at all practical view as marriage in India is never between two individuals – but between two families. Yes, you can still talk these point out (not necessarily agree) if you have only two individuals getting married without any family involved in the whole process. The whole manifesto falls flat when you consider the family angle. That reminds me, if we were to do a survey and find out the number for people posting an ad in a matrimonial for their marriage and number of people delegating the ad posting to their parents (by choice or without it), there is no prizes for guessing which one would be more!!! You can’t really keep the parents and relatives out of marriage in India, at least not in the foreseeable future…

The ad does talk about the key issues responsible for failure of marriage, but leaves the subjectivity to the individuals. That’s hardly surprising, because even makers of the ad know that its better to let the individuals in a marriage to decide what’s right and what’s wrong for them. Even if you agree to abide by these commandments, you can always prove your need to be greater than the other person. And by the way, does anyone remember the vows they had taken while marrying? …:)..Basic premise of this ad is entrenched in subjectivity and complexity – the very characteristics making the marriage a code that is difficult, not impossible to crack!! I feel rather than featuring their profile in such ads, I feel people may better opt for live-in relationships.

Rather than setting the myriad contract clauses and safeguarding your own interests, one may better spend time listening, understanding and acting on views and wishes of one’s spouse. I still feel the old school approach of ‘doing small things for your spouse’, ‘sacrificing here and there’, and ‘becoming a helping hand’ among many other small nothings can do wonders for the relationship. The biggest change after marriage is the ‘intrusion of space’ –  how well you handle that is totally up to individual’s willingness to go that extra mile and help accommodate each other. For any marriage or relationship to work, the intent has to be there and effort has to come from both ends. Whether the effort put has to be equal? Ideally, it should be. However, in real life, its the woman who puts more efforts to make this whole thing work. Till the time there is a drastic change in the marriage process (like a guy going to a girl’s house), the woman will continue to put more effort into the marriage.

Bottom-line is,  Listen to every advice you get from various people on how to make marriage work, read all the ‘successful’ marriage formulas people come out with, appreciate the effort marriage related research scientists conduct world over, but when it comes to decide for what’s good for your marriage, along with your spouse, stand up and call the shots!!!

Like it or not – Comparison is Inevitable!!!

Its everywhere – in the air surrounding us, in our relationships, inside us! Comparison is omniscient and inevitable, and you can do nothing (or can you?) about it...Even it features a lot of times in my previous blog posts...

Comparison is one social characteristic which can be found in any culture…it has nothing to do with education, social status, rich or poor, civilization…its all pervasive and everyone indulges in it…We compare things, places, people, status, wealth, happiness/sadness, decisions, relationships and every tangible or intangible thing possible on this earth. We do this relentlessly from childhood till the time we die and no one seems to notice it !!!

Its debatable (I wonder why all the things I write on this blog are debatable and have no right or wrong answer 🙂…) whether comparison is wrong or right…its relative to people’s perception…So, when your parents compare you with your cousin/neighborhood kid on marks in school/college, its bad. But, when you compare yourself against your crush’s girlfriend/boyfriend, and find yourself way better, the comparison is good and healthy. Your manager talks about healthy competition in the team, by comparing your achievements vis-a-vis his pet. Utter BS!! When appraisal letter is out and you exceed peers by some percentage points, you feel on the top of the world. Perspectives and situations may be different, but comparison has the last laugh…

Comparison is one conditioning every parent gives to their children, deliberately or in ignorance.

In any stage of life, you are in a race (the very platform of comparison) – be it coming first in your bloody class/school/college, in your office, in eyes of your life partner, while amassing maximum wealth. And when you have kids, the comparison thingy reboots and is passed on as a legacy to your kids. Quite a life cycle…like Energy, comparison cannot be destroyed, however, it can be created anew.

You can’t help comparing – should you give up? Problem is, you really can’t! Its a very strong force riding our mind which defines what path we choose, shape our attitude and have deep impact on day-to-day life. Almost all of us have idols, benchmarks and standards against which we constantly compare our progress in life and decide the course of action. So, how to curb it, more importantly, when to curb it? It would be improper on us to expect from a child/teen to give up comparison. But you grown up people, can certainly make a difference in your life. Exerting a better control on your personality and behavior,you better start doing some introspection and look out the areas in which you compare.

In many walks of life, we screw up because we compare. Lets stop this unending chain of comparison from areas which you dislike. Make sure what comparison you had been subject to, you would not do the same on people you have some impact (like your partner, children or employees). You have to break this chain, no one else can do anything for you. While comparisons you have created afresh and your loved ones are being subject to them now, I don’t think any strategy will work – because, they have come out of your mind/thinking and would appear alright to you.

One more argument I would put is to at least not compare people (your lovers, parents, kids, friends etc, etc.). Its difficult as we gain sense of confidence, security and pride when we compare people. But if we can minimize comparing people, it can go a long way in strengthening your crusade against comparison. If you are a ‘compulsive comparer’, do it with inanimate objects that do not possess any feelings….

Lastly, if you feel what all I have written is BS, and there is no harm in comparison as it provides a purpose and direction in life, go ahead and do it. Just make sure you do not tell it to people who you are comparing. It is not cool.

Hey Boy! Your Best Friend is a Girl? Never Mind, You’re not Alone….

Need to share something exciting?? Looking for a shoulder to cry?? Want to confess, share or simply bitch? If you’re a guy or a girl, there are high chances that shoulder extended is that of a person from opposite gender. Rules of the game are simple for boys and girl alike. You want to have fun, enjoy, hangout etc. you may do it with your gang of boys or girls. The moment you feel the need to talk “Serious” issues impacting your life, you go to a best friend, most probably not the same as your gender. This is also referred to as ‘Platonic Relationship‘. According to wikipedia,

Platonic love, in its modern popular sense, is a non-sexual affectionate relationship. A simple example of Platonic relationships is a deep, non-sexual friendship, not subject to gender pairings and including close relatives.

What intrigues me about platonic relationships are two things – why we do it? and i-kid-you-not, what are the best practices to follow? 🙂 simply put, why boys and girls gel more and what steps to follow to keep it just that – platonic. Making whole affair spicy is the popular belief that best friends make best of lovers. Indeed, I am available to testify that anyday ;).. So how and why do we get along with opposite sex so much? Here are my top reasons:

## They are better listeners than similar gender friends…afterall which guy would be interested in knowing what’s happening in other lad’s life??

## Cos they listen better, they empathize better…hence are closer to heart…

## There is huge curiousity about the other sex…Whats in their mind, how they react to situations, how to impress them, or simply what works and what not…completely unchartered territory to be explored..

## Some Insider tips, advices or suggestions on how to go about winning someone over…

## There is no competition… with same sex, you are always bound to be comapred on appearance, intelligence or skills…no such competition with opposite sex :)…

## Attention never seems to cease from the opposite sex…Get loads of it all the time…:)

## You can shamelessly ask for any number of favors…and get your work done…

## You can simply bitch or complain about anyone under the sun…even about the one you love…on a serious note, there are some things you dont even share with your someone special, no holds barred here…:)

People have thier own opinions on platonic relationships…Some argue that a guy and a girl can never be ‘just’ friends…while others are of view that people can be friends without getting the angle of love and sex involved in their relationship. Fair enough, both sides put their arguments in a manner which do not have a right/wrong answer as relationships come with lot of  subjectivity involved. Even though it is good to have friends, there has to be priorities defined on how do you want to treat people in your life. There is a whole lot of effort required along with great restraint from both the parties involved. Here’s what I think are the things we shouldn’t forget if we are in a platonic relationship,

** Draw your limits on what to share and how much to share. I guess there should be check on few things personal, which you would rather prefer sharing with someone special…

** Don’t believe just because your comfortable talking to your friend, you would turn to them in every situation…be wary, especially in emotional situations….The support extended at these situation brings you closer to anyone in record time!!

** Be focussed. Don’t create if’s and but’s scenarios with your best friend in mind…trust me, its gonna be disastrous, and you would probably end up on losing side..

** Flirt, but again, need to show some restraint. The love emnates from the flirting and becomes too much to handle…

** Never ever give priority to you friend over your love… You would be doing great injustice to them. Always remember your love has the first right on you…

** Never compare the two – your friend and your love. Both are individuals, bound to be different. Respect the same. period.

** Being protective is good. But only if  its your love interest. Don’t try to be protective and poke your nose too much in their affairs. Alongside, don’t take or force your decisions on them. You ain’t god controlling the life of mortals…

** Its good to be available for help sought by your friends…but on expense of your own life, personal engagements etc.,  No way!. if you draw a line for yourself, make sure your friends do that too.

 I understand, we are all humans, always ready to err. Don’t do this, do that, may never help. I suppose, what I have written is tending towards ideal or perfect. But, all of this would make sense if you try and see your friendship being in your lover’s shoes. How you would feel about the relationship then? I am sure the limits, focus and priorities would come by themselves, without any great effort. Afterall, what if your friend has a love and they start keeping tab on the relationship with you. Exactly! sooner or later that has to happen.

However, if you/your friend fail to do all this, get ready to propose your friend…A good, strong relationship is in store for you…;)

 

What Matters to You: ‘X’ Factor or ‘Stay’ Factor?

We all live in a world where first impression matters the most…After all, we all lead busy, non stop lives where we come across so many individuals on day-to-day basis…People who have pleasant faces, dress appropriately, talk assertively leaving everyone around them mesmerized or simply making a statement where they appear away from ordinary or bohemian… These are the people who we remember or give a ‘second look’ to…all thanks to the first impression…popularly known as  ‘X’ factor….

A research done by Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov of Princeton university concludes that it takes 100 millisecond of exposure time to form on opinion about someone we come across. The research asked the participants to judge random people’s pictures on 5 parameters (attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness) and concluded that if we increase the exposure (from 100 millisecond to 500/1000 millisecond) of these pictures, some of the judgement made earlier were strengthened.  The research concluded with a statement – however, increased exposure time led to more differentiated person impressions.

Impressions don’t last forever, but they last long…That’s how we form relationships – On first impressions. But can they be sustained on X factor alone? I believe – No. You need much more than just X factor – a ‘Stay’ factor  – which goes beyond X factor and comprised of all the parameters which are necessary to sustain and grow a relationship. While X factor is known in milliseconds, Stay factor requires honest effort to know a person. So, X factor is peripheral and concerned about physical appearances, Stay factor is more about heart and soul and can only be known via more interactions.

In reality, we are too smitten by the X factor that by the time we realize its not working out, its too late to concentrate on Stay factor. People see the sheen only and forget what lies beneath. Reasons to do that can be many – personal achievement or ego boost, social status, peer pressure or simply a prejudiced, hollow thought process, where stereotypes rule! We all fall prey and get attracted to people with X factor…others, we simply give them a miss!! (That is why some people prefer socializing on internet, as they are not judged by appearances but by stuff they have inside)

X factor is good support for judgement, but it should not be taken as  ‘end-all, be-all’ for forming an opinion about someone. But, things that X factor comprises (read looks), play so much on our mind, that we forget the rest and our opinions are already positive about that person. We try to perceive actions of that person only through one angle – X factor. We ignore few important things in the process such as attitude and basic nature of the person, the very foundation of a person. ‘Taken for granted’ is the biggest by product of relationships sustained on just X factor. It takes time to let the effect sink in, and when it does we eject ourselves. All ready for an Encore….

However, the sooner you transition from X factor to Stay factor, better for you and the relationship. Try and work on weak areas while strengthening the strong and compatible ones. Now that you have put foot in the door, its time to make a good, solid foundation for your relationship. How do we achieve all this? Talk, meet, hangout, enjoy, have good/bad time and then talk some more…

X factor is completely in line with principles of Natural Selection, so its beyond our control. We ought to get attracted to people who possess it. period. But, look around, people with whom you are with for many many years, did they exhibit X factor the first time they met you? or did you give them ample time to strike a chord and made an effort to understand each other? Relationship that you sustain over long period of time have the solid foundation of Stay factor. You want them to Stay. In the bargain, you are ready to make amends and adjustments necessary.  If you have done all this,  you have realized the power and significance of Stay factor!!

For the sake of recessionary world economy,  Its not bad though, chasing/developing X factor… it saves time!!