We rise by lifting others: How to overcome the “networking” gap

In 2021, 41 women were running businesses on the Fortune 500, a new record. That’s more than there have been at any other point in the index’s 67-year history.

It’s an exciting time for female entrepreneurs. Not only because of the ever evolving innovations in technology opening up opportunities but also because of a step change in the attitude of the business community. It hasn’t happened overnight, and we have to acknowledge those who have fought hard – with passion and dedication – to make this happen.

As a new agency owner, I have found this to be an era of not only women supporting women but one where the entire business community has become more open, supportive and collaborative than ever before. For example, I’ve been provided with an incredibly warm and welcoming response in attending more networking events like BIMA, Agency Hackers and AllBright. Far be it from the competitive landscape we’ve been made to expect, but one where peers of all genders have been on hand to offer guidance, support or even just an ear.

I can’t stress enough how important that is, especially for women. To continue breaking ground and enforcing this difference, we need the space to ‘tell our story’ and make our voices heard. This is how we can continue to elevate each other, share hurdles we’ve faced and, most importantly, be open and transparent that this is no easy ride.

Building a network of contacts cannot be underestimated

There is still work to be done. Businesses do not start or grow in isolation – creating valuable connections can help you to expand your business, grow client  prospects and become more visible as an entrepreneur. Yet, according to research, women often don’t network at all. In the UK, women were 27% less likely to have a strong network – one that’s both large and diverse. And this gender “network gap” holds true across the globe.

Women are already actively seeking to address this gap. For example, they were 32% more likely than men to take courses related to networking on LinkedIn Learning in 2021. But there is more we can do, on the ground, to close this gap too. It starts with raising other women up and supporting each other’s participation. In a quote often attributed to Madeleine Albright but which is actually from Dr Robert Ingersoll, ‘we rise by lifting others’. By taking the first step towards establishing our own networks and reaching out to women who might hide behind their modesty and vice versa.

In my experience, more often than not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the depth of support and warmth in response. For example, after a recent conference, I took action, following up with a highly respected and influential titan in the industry – someone that I have admired for a while. She was keen to offer advice, engage and make introductions to open even more doors for me.

Level Up Summit

 

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

Vulnerability is about bravery

That’s not to say it’s not scary, if only because you’re putting yourself in a place of vulnerability.  Individuals in leadership positions – especially female leaders – are so used to fighting their way to the top that they often forget that it’s OK not to know every answer and it’s OK to rely on others.

From the other perspective, you must try to be self-aware of when it’s not inability or lack of knowledge you’re dealing with, but ‘imposter syndrome’. It is easier said than done, but remember that you have so much to impart on new graduates, career entrants, and perhaps surprisingly, your peers. And actually, networking and having that support system behind you can provide an objective point of view, or even their own experiences of feeling the same way can be an excellent way to help you overcome it.

It’s crucial to also empower your team

Providing personalised and tailored training programmes is increasingly important. First, because a focus on professional development is becoming a ‘must’ in the modern workforce –  40% of employees who receive poor training will leave their job within five years. But also, increased access to learning resources is key to empowerment. Making sure that team members have been given all the tools to do their job efficiently will ultimately instil the confidence that will make proficiencies in areas like networking much easier than it was for the generation before them.

I genuinely believe tides are turning because of these new collaborative support systems springing up around us. Don’t get me wrong; there is a long history – and present – of women who have not had this support. Moving forward, there is strength in numbers, especially emotional strength, which you’ll need at some stage to help you keep standing up for yourself and other women. The more we work together and support each other, the more we’ll be heard.

This generation is keen to support and see other businesses thrive – we must ensure that we keep this  mentality. It will make all the difference in enabling women to take the reins in leadership and building a more dynamic and complete workforce that is a better representative of society as a whole.

About the author

Amy Ramage, MD and Creative Director at Célibataire

Amy founded hybrid design studio Célibataire in 2022, with the mission of making the web a more beautiful and intuitive place. She has 20 years’ experience crafting transformational brand experiences – that drive business growth and success – for the world’s most ambitious brands.

Incredibly conscious of the way Célibataire does business, Amy believes in operating ethically and sustainably – for people and the planet. She is passionate about working with and empowering women-owned brands and businesses. And prides herself in building long-lasting relationships with colleagues, clients, partners and peers.

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