Unlocking the Networking Potential of Women: Strategies to Overcome Gender Bias

Studies show that women’s networks are less strong than men’s. Learn why and what you can do to create a better network.

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For years women have experienced setbacks in the workplace. And while women are being represented more equally and the gender wage gap has gotten smaller, there is still a long way to go before all genders are seen as equal in the workplace. 

As someone who spends a lot of time researching networking, I’ve noticed that a lot of networking content is directed toward men and is based on how men network. Yet, women are expected to network in the same way. 

For Women’s History Month, I wanted to take the time to dive deeper into networking as a woman. In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned about why networking shouldn't always be gender-neutral and how women can benefit from networking in a way designed for them. 

Why networking is an essential skill for women

No matter who you are, or your gender, networking is an essential skill for professionals. Networking is vital to maximizing career growth and learning opportunities. Networking offers opportunities to gain industry knowledge, access job opportunities, find career advice and support, build confidence, and even increase your salary

Why women have less effective networks

Unfortunately, not all networks are created equally. Kellogg School of Management found that women who network like men end up three times more likely to have a worse job than women with a strong network of other women. 

Another study conducted in Germany found that women’s networks suffer for two main reasons:

1. External barriers

Part of the reason women’s networks suffer is due to reasons entirely out of their control. External barriers such as exclusion from men have been found to directly harm women’s ability to network. This type of exclusion can be as subtle as fewer women existing in higher level positions, therefore being unable to gain access to a network that can help them rise in their career, or much more noticeable, such as men actively avoiding networking with women. 

External barriers to networking are often difficult to avoid and may not be as simple to overcome. Don’t let external barriers keep you from attempting to network. Often, internal barriers are the biggest hurdle to overcome. 

2. Internal barriers 

Women’s networks often suffer because of a lack of confidence and perception of relationships. As a result, women are less likely to “capitalise on social ties,” said Professor Olga Tregaskis

Because women perceive social relationships differently, they also tend to treat networking relationships differently. Women focus less on how relationships can benefit them and place more emphasis on creating personal relationships over professional ones. 

Women also tend to undervalue themselves and the value they can add to a professional network and the job market. Leading them to situations in which they are less likely to ask for help and more likely to be undervalued. 

How to network as a woman

How you choose to network is best determined by who you are, your personality, and what fits your career. However, many women can benefit from a similar style of networking. 

1. Keep it small 

When women network like men, one reason their network quality suffers is due to the size of the network. Men tend to create more extensive networks with more broad relationships. However, women are generally better at building deeper relationships, making focusing on a smaller group more beneficial. 

Women networking
Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

2. Network with other women

As the Kellogg School of Management study showed, women who networked with men often saw fewer benefits than those with the same qualifications who networked with women. While you shouldn’t limit yourself to only networking with women, choosing to network with other women can be an incredibly effective way to level up your career. 

Creating a network of women is one of the best ways to get career advice and mentorship from someone who best understands what it’s like to be a female in your industry. 

3. Gather a group 

Many women struggle to grow their networks, so why not create a network that helps more than yourself? Instead, bring together a group of women to help empower everyone in your network to gain more connections. 

Not only can you help them make new connections, but you’ll also benefit from meeting their connections. If you create a networking group, don’t forget that it’s often best to start small. 

4. Focus on the follow-up 

One of the beneficial ways women network is their ability to create deeper connections. So don’t forget to follow up and work to develop stronger relationships. If you need help managing your network, read my blog on how to manage more connections.

Looking for more information on becoming a better networker? Find all of our networking tips on the HiHello blog

Main photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

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