Women – please start networking!
On Monday April 26, 2010 Female Navigators hosted the event ”Male Leaders” at CBS in collaboration with The Danish Association of Lawyers and Economists (DJØF). The event sought to present some of the myths and experiences of male leaders with an ambition to promote female leaders in their companies. The invited panel included Asger Aamund, Chairman from Bavarian Nordic, Kim Fournais, CEO from Saxo Bank and Ulrik Sanders, Partner at The Boston Consulting Group.
One of the important key learnings from the event was that women should be sure to use their network in order to position themselves for the long run CEO target.
Following the debate Female Navigators hosted a networking event for the participating audience (both men and women) however it was clear that men by far still understand the value and way of networking – at this event as with many others.
This led us to contemplate within the steering group of Female Navigators whether women network at all – and if so do we network differently from our male peers?
In my personal case I feel that networking comes easy for me, I am a curious person always interested in hearing someone else’s story. But I often find myself trying to network with women – that don’t network back? Make sense ?
Well first of all I know from several of my female friends that they find networking to be a staged and unnatural way of making conversation. The old opportunism seem to lurk around the corner, and women just steer clear of asking favors and getting names from someone they hardly know.
Second, and less fortunate, women tend to let thing become personal very quickly. Perhaps it is an excuse to ask for favors that makes women ask about the networking candidates private life, the number of kids and favorite coffee.
Both of these explanations leave women in a very awkward situation where getting in the “game” has them playing in a whole other ballpark. That is, the game of befriending somebody.
The art and nature of networking must be – first and foremost – a give-and-take set-up where everyone complies with the rule that it is the one with the best abilities to offer and seek networks who wins. Thus, in the very nature of networking, people (and in this case most often men) look to help others without asking for anything in return – as they know that at some other time their needs and ideas will be met due to their prior engagements and networking abilities.
Put very simply, networking is about keeping relations warm. By this I mean that I make sure to please my current network, and I place myself in situation where I find that someone might be of value to me in the future. This has nothing to do with how I hang out with my friends. But for most women I know my way of networking sounds very heartless and with a selfish motif. And they are right. That is just what it is. But – it is also about being helpful and offering the benefits of my network to someone else. And actually doing it, when I say I am going to make that phone call.
Hosting events where many women show up and some stay for the networking part afterwards has become quite frustrating.
Our next event should maybe focus on how women in real life can become better networkers and still feel that they are not using others or becoming best friends with everyone they meet. So -if you can recognize yourself in these words please send me a mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell me about what you find is difficult when networking – hopefully we can all become better networkers and start reaping the benefits of the efficient networks out there!