Monday, 5 April 2021

“It's who you know, not what you know."

That's common wisdom for getting a job, promotion or other professional opportunity. But for women, research shows that the gender makeup of “who they know" also makes a difference in their ability to secure top positions.

Both men and women benefit from having a network of well-connected peers, but women who also have an inner circle of close female contacts are more likely to land executive positions with greater authority and higher pay. On the contrary, no link was found for men's success based on the gender of their inner circles.

Why women need women

Women need a close network of female contacts to become more successful because they continue to face unconscious bias and other cultural hurdles that make it more challenging for them to succeed. When they have close relationships with other women in various organizations and positions, they can share inside information with each other that can strengthen their job search strategies as well as their approaches to interviewing and negotiation.

For example, if you're applying for a leadership position at ABC Company and you have a female contact at who works at ABC, she can share information, such as the company's history with and attitudes toward female leaders. She could also tell you whether the company offers equal opportunities for both genders.

How to build and nurture a female network

Every ambitious professional should be working to build a network of like-minded people in various industries and organizations. But women who are interested in capitalizing on the unique perks of a close female network should create their networks deliberately.

  • Focus on quality. Rather than trying to build connections with as many people as you possibly can, aspire to connect with people who can bring value to your network. Researchers who have studied women's professional networks recommend connecting with people who are connected with a number of other networks.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Most of us naturally gravitate toward people with similar experiences and ideas, but the best professional networks include women from a variety of backgrounds, industries and goals. By expanding your network to include women who wouldn't necessarily be part of your normal social circle, you'll expand your knowledge, your contacts and may find opportunities for partnerships. For example, if you and your connection have very few LinkedIn connections in common, that's a good thing.
  • Avoid building a closed circle. It might be fun to have a close circle of women friends who all know each other intimately, but that's not the best strategy for your professional network. If all your close contacts are also each other's close contacts, you will never benefit from each other's extended networks, unique insights and opportunities. Even if you have a close group of professional female contacts, make sure you also have other close female contacts outside of that group, which will provide you with a much larger and more diverse network

When you're proactive about building a network that includes close female contacts, you can feel confident about having your opportunities for success. With the right women in your corner, you can access the inside track to boosting your career.

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