In the professional world, networking is often the key to unlocking opportunities and career advancement.
Did you know that studies have shown that women’s professional networks are often less powerful and effective than men’s. Understanding the reasons behind this discrepancy is crucial for empowering women in the workforce. A recent study titled “Why women build less effective networks than men: The role of structural exclusion and personal hesitation” sheds light on this issue.
The Barriers to Effective Networking
The study, based on interviews with 37 high-profile female leaders in large German corporations, identified two main barriers to effective networking for women: structural exclusion and personal hesitation.
Structural Exclusion: Structural exclusion refers to the external barriers that prevent women from accessing powerful networks. These barriers often stem from work-family conflicts and homophily, the tendency for individuals to associate with others who are similar to them. This can result in women being left out of important networking opportunities.
Personal Hesitation: The study also found that women often hesitate to use their social ties for professional gain. This hesitation is linked to moral considerations in social interactions and a sense of modesty that is often gendered.
Overcoming the Barriers
Understanding these barriers is the first step towards overcoming them. Here are some strategies for professional women to build more effective networks:
Address Work-Family Conflicts: Organizations can play a crucial role here by promoting work-life balance and providing support for family responsibilities. This could involve flexible working hours, remote working options, and providing childcare facilities.
Break the Homophily Cycle: Seek out diverse networks and don’t shy away from networking events that are dominated by men. This can help you gain access to different perspectives and opportunities.
Overcome Personal Hesitation: Recognize the value of your professional relationships and don’t hesitate to leverage them when necessary. Remember, networking is a two-way street and it’s about mutual support and exchange of value.
Gain Clarity: Get clear on why it is important for you to build your network and the relationships you are looking to develop. The important thing to keep in mind with networking is that you are not seeking to build relationships with everyone. Rather, you are looking to form connections with people you aline with, in terms of goals and in terms of values. Clarity creates confidence.
Effective networking is crucial for career advancement and creating opportunities. By understanding and addressing the barriers that prevent women from building effective networks, we can work towards a more equitable professional world. The saying goes, ‘Your network is your net worth.’ This adage underscores the fact that relationships underpin our success in work, business, and capitalizing on opportunities. Beyond professional achievements, healthy relationships are also essential to our happiness and well-being. Networking isn’t solely about achieving specific business outcomes; it’s about building and nurturing relationships. So, let’s break down these barriers and build powerful networks for professional success.