Harvard Business Review says ‘Network More is bad advice for women’ – I say NONSENSE!

Women NetworkingI hate to get into a fight with the mighty Harvard Business Review but they have published a load of codswallop, albeit in the USA.

Sarah Green writes that well-meaning people giving advice to businesswomen about how to get ahead, put networking top of the list. And research has found that men’s connections were better than women’s and that “men and women are set on different trajectories at the very outset of their careers, by factors outs ide of their control.”

Therefore they conclude that more networking by women is NOT the way forward.

In my humble opinion this is the wrong advice.

Granted networking is only ONE of the ways forward but it is an important one and I speak with the experience of someone who has worked with women all my life – in journalism and Women’s Aid – and who has hosted a successful women’s network for nearly 10 years.

Networking is a vital tool in business because in making new contacts, talking to people – sometimes out of your profession – it can bring new ideas and most probably new business. I see this in action each time I host a networking event. But of course it is only one tool to use.

Let’s get real. It is still by and large a man’s world. And don’t tell me that the Old Boy’s Network here is defunct. I had a recent conversation with the woman MD of a major recruitment organisation who said apropos of my crusade to get more females on Boards: “You’re pushing at an open door, Val. Only yesterday a CEO said to me, “If you can get a woman to mesh with my Board, send her along.” Patronising tosh.

But I admit the tides have changed – just not enough. I am sure CEO’s are trying to get more women in senior roles because they know that company results improve with women on board (pun intended). I just hate the idea of a token woman. And I don’t much like the quota system either. Rather I prefer a system whereby head-hunters put one or more women on their short list and then may the best fit for that company get the job.

If you attend my network lunches you will hear about my crusade – to make women less self-denigrating and to make us aware of traits ingrained in our DNA which keep us away from realising our full potential. And grabbing that seat on the Board.

Do they hear your voice?

Apparently after company meetings, when men are asked how much the women there spoke, they said “around 75%”. In reality it would be around the 25% mark.

The answer? You need to project your voice, make it more authoritative. In my network theatre director and voice coach Anna Ostergren conducts courses to do just that and has great success. One of her clients she met at my network and who went through her course is now CEO of a bank. (Don’t tell me networking doesn’t work!) ([email protected])

Are you self-confident enough?

If you want to make your mark, you need confidence. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, women in business deal differently with teams and problems. Not better, not worse, just different. (Women who are not pretend men, of course.) Try telling yourself over and over again that you ARE worth it. That you CAN do this. Talk yourself into being more confident then act it. Like men. It works.

What if I fail?

Chuck this enfeebling thought right out of your head and don’t let it return. Success or failure has no gender and if you pay attention to what you intend to present as well as how you look and how you sound, failure as someone once said isn’t an option.

So is networking really that good?

Yes it is. And if I can’t persuade you perhaps some of my networkers can. Here are only a few of the many comments I receive:

  • “I’m still smiling, both within and without. What a wonderful collection of women you’ve assembled! I know already that the connections I made are going to lead to some exciting opportunities.”
  • “Fabulous lunch yesterday! One of the best I have been to. On the train up to London I read through the amazing biographies and wrote a list of the names of seven women I wanted to meet and connect with. Out of those seven I met five as well as others who will be wonderful contacts.”
  • “First lunch I’ve attended. I met a number of wonderful smart savvy women. An ideal mixture of good fun and business with fabulous lunch to boot.”
  • “It was a fantastic event, I met some really interesting people who I have already connected with. I am a member of various women’s networks in London but yours definitely has the edge. I would love to recommend people to you, would you prefer their details first or just an introduction via email?” (answer: Women who are executives or own their own business are all eligible, email [email protected]).
  • “I thoroughly enjoyed myself and hopeful that I have made some excellent contacts. I love the fact that the group is made up of such a diverse group of women.”

About the author

Lady Val is our Life of a Lady Blogger. Lady Val is also the founder of 'Lady Val's Professional Women's Network.' You can Reach Lady Val on: Life of a Lady Blog, Lady Val's Professional Women's Network

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