Look around your office or professional group. Observe the interactions. You might notice that the way women and men network are significantly different, often causing a disconnect.
Generally, men network with a purpose. It is strategic for their professional goals. Women, on the other hand, more often network for social enjoyment. If they’re comfortable around a certain group of people, those are the ones they’ll likely approach and dedicate time to.
Networking for Business
Generally, women don’t see any network connection as a waste of time. Even if she speaks to someone who can’t directly help her with a pressing issue, it doesn’t mean the connection is wasted. It is about building a web of people who could assist at a later date, or who could introduce her to another important figure later down the road.
Men have a different approach. It is more of a straight shot than a roundabout method. Men think about what they need at the very moment and ask for it. It’s simple. They don’t worry about cultivating a relationship before making the ask.
Know Who You’re Speaking With
Many women would benefit from making a stronger distinction between personal relationships and business relationships, according to author Karen Burns.
In personal relationships, almost nothing is off the table. You can vent to each other, tell embarrassing stories, discuss politics, etc.
When speaking to a member of your professional network, you should be constantly trying to put your best foot forward and present yourself in a responsible, intelligent way. Being open and honest is a given, but the impression you make should always be top of mind.
Networking with Men
Because men and women have such different networking tendencies, it is often difficult to find a balance. This is one reason that men continue to dominate as CEOs and business leaders. Men are good at connecting with other men.
As a woman, you should be more cognizant of how men network with each other, and mimic that while entwining your own unique style. For example, be more direct in asking for what you want. Small talk might be your go-to, but that doesn’t always work. When you get to the point quickly, it saves both parties time and confusion. Similarly, don’t be taken aback by men (or women) who do the same.
Women’s networking tendencies are one potential reason for a lack of promotion in the workplace, but it is far from being the only contributing factor. In my next blog, I’ll discuss additional hurdles that hinder women from breaking through the glass ceiling and becoming leaders in their field.
As Robert Frost said, “Being the boss anywhere is lonely. Being a female boss in a world of mostly men is especially so.”