Many women cringe at the prospect of networking. In fact, they see people who network as pushy, inauthentic and communicating unnaturally under contrived circumstances (Barsh et al. 2001). Because so many women see themselves as nurturers and caregivers, they see networking as an awkward fit as it promotes aggressiveness.
Men, on the other hand, see themselves as being hunters and ambitious leaders. Networking, then, is considered a necessary skill which must be honed to ensure professional survival.
According to Barsh et al. (2001), women push away any thought of networking because it comes into conflict with their family and household responsibilities. According to Sandberg (2013), when both husband and wife are employed full-time, it is the women who absorb 40% more childcare responsibilities and 30% more housework.
Men are usually willing to stay longer after work and connect, network and have drinks with team members or clients. This after-hours connection is an extension of their workday and helps close deals and push projects forward (Barsh, et al. 2011).
Additionally, women often feel they do not have enough energy or time to devote to cultivating lasting and meaningful relationships. Men, on the other hand, are happy with casual and light “connections” which will help their advancement in the long run (Barsh et al. 2011).
This is where the difference lies – in the definition of networking. For women, networking means developing meaningful relationships; for men, networking means making exciting and profitable connections. See the difference? Which one do you think is more profitable in the professional world?
Barsh et al., (2011), clearly state that networking is NOT optional. If you want to be an agent of change, to make a difference and to feel like you are part of a team, you need to network – simple as that.
Building a good network, however, is an art. In essence, this means having a varied and balanced group of people in your circle. Keep your network authentic and only include people you highly respect in your circle. These people can be clients, customers, colleagues, administrators, mentors and professors. After all, as Mulcahy (as cited in Barsh, 2011) states, these are the people who will be rooting for you. You want to be surrounded by an “army” who can offer support and guidance. In addition, your network will act as your second family who will undoubtedly increase your overall well-being.
Networking is not just for high-powered female CEOs. This task is necessary for all women such as teachers, engineers, stay-at-home mothers, police officers – and the list goes on.
Networking is a skill, and it is an art, and all women must master it!