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 –
#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.
#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…
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.