Why women have to network
Why women have to network and build professional alliances
By Natalie McMillan – Coach
Our careers are not linear and like life, there are many factors, different paths and avenues that we find ourselves travelling along. I want to open up your eyes to the need to build relationships and networks both within your business and organisation and beyond this. One of the contributing factors, in women feeling they are being held back or not given opportunities, is the reality of the world of work still very much revolving around ‘who you know’ rather than ‘what you know’.
It may be an uncomfortable truth and one that you disagree with, however, it is essential to your career aspirations to recognise and acknowledge this. International Women’s Day in March sparked many debates (on social media) about why we need women only networks and groups. Many of those commenting and arguing against these, were women. Really? Less than a third of FTSE 100 Boards have women on them.
Consider that for decades, there have been men only groups everywhere; the gold club, the pub, sports clubs to name a few. They exist in organisations even if they are not formalised and lead to many women feeling frustrated about the ‘old boys’ network’ and feeling like they are on the periphery.
I remember, when I worked in the car manufacturing industry, being excluded from the evening events with other senior managers from our business and customers. The reason? It wasn’t appropriate as it was all men and they would be finishing off the event after a meal with a laptop club. This is not the 1970s or 1980s but the 21st century! The result was that this is where all the business around promotion and opportunities happened.
If you want to take steps to progress your career, then you need to make sure that you are part of the informal networks within your business. This means building relationships and alliances with both women and men and putting time and effort into developing this relationship. Don’t spend the time asking for help and opportunities but rather ask them about informal mentoring to help you develop. This will mean that you are on the radar and visible.
Get involved with networking groups. They are just a group of people talking, meeting and socialising. Often women are more reluctant to take part and feel nervous about coming along and I often hear, it’s not for me. Getting to know more people and build a support network is not for you? You never know who you will meet and what relationships you will build. Trust me, it will lead to new opportunities.
Many women are nervous about attending networking events or how to go about building new relationships. This is where a career coach can help to guide you through this. I work with other women to help them develop a plan and strategy to network and create alliances and I can help you too.
“Networking means the act of exchanging information with people who can help you professionally”