Women networking – are we in a different league from men doing the same thing? Does gender make any difference to how successful we are at it?
A colleague sent me an article from The Times, entitled “Why women are such bad networkers”. The premise for the article was actually “Women are not natural networkers”.
I would partially agree with the female journalist – but only partially.
Following years networking in a mixed gender environment, a few years ago I started to attend women-only groups. What a relief.
Spending most of my networking time with people who appreciate the value of building relationships is like a breath of fresh air. Generally, the women networking are not just interested in talking about their product or service; they want to know me and have me know them. It’s refreshing to be part of a conversation where both of us are curious to know more about, not just what we each do, but why and how we do it. This has rarely been my experience networking with men.
Women networking seem more willing to get to know each other on a 1-1 basis too, which becomes important in developing trust.
Knowledge and trust are likely to be significant in any future business dealings we may have with each other and crucial if we are to feel comfortable referring on to third parties.
Where I do believe the Times’ journalist has a point in her indictment of women’s ability to network, is in her observation that “we are more likely than our male peers to hide our talents”. She’s right. Men do appear to have got over that “terribly British” affliction of being “frightfully” modest. Why can’t we?
So what can women networking do differently?
I think we need to start changing some of our assumptions and fears about what others might think about us if we publicly declare our skills, qualities and values.
Think about what would compel you to do business with someone else or refer them on. Just knowing what they do? Or also knowing they have integrity and are enthusiastic, talented and well-thought of?
Well, they are likely to want to know that about you too but how can they if you don’t tell them?
Come on girls – we’re natural relationship builders so let’s get over ourselves and show people what we’re made of so we become natural networkers in business too.
We need to replace our modesty with confidence and our fear of derision by a belief that people want to know about our talents.
To quote Marianne Williamson: “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”