At the We Mean Business event at Westminister Hall in February, Maria Eagle MP confidently stood in front of 250 women and stated that women weren’t good networkers. Yesterday in the Times Antonia Senior wrote an article entitled “Why Women are such bad networkers”. What is going on here? Why is this message being bandied about like it is fact. So I’m here to set the record straight. The opposite is in fact true… they’re not just good networkers, they’re great networkers. This is evidenced not only by the number of women only business networks but also by the Mums networks that exist all over the country.
Last Monday, at the Women Unlimited Stepping into Success conference, the buzz was deafening as women were connecting and building new relationships with each other. In my 10 years of networking, I have never seen this kind of connection and energy at a mixed networking event. I am a member of multiple women’s networks as well as mixed networking groups. Networks such as Athena, Sister Snog, She’s Ingenious and Women Unlimited are thriving. If you asked the women that attended the meetings in these networks, whether or not women were good networkers, you would hear a roar of disapproval at even asking the question.
Women are not natural networkers?
In the Times article the second paragraph starts with the statement “Women are not natural networkers.” Ok ladies, look inside yourselves and tell me whether you think this statement sounds even remotely accurate. Women network every day of their lives whether they are mothers, carers, business owners or career women. We are constantly sharing news, stories, advice and referrals. Networking is how most of us choose our suppliers, decide which items to buy, and learn about new opportunities. Women are behind 80% of all purchases here in the UK and any business which thinks that women don’t network (and thereby share referrals and recommendations) doesn’t understand the way that our society works and runs the risk of missing out on the market that they should be spending most of their energy on.
No ass kissing here
The journalist seems to indicate that if we’re not schmoozing then we’re not networking. So because women are not so good at kissing their bosses behind, then they are not good networkers. Yes, I would have to agree with that, as not much ass kissing goes on around here, however relationship building definitely does. In my web design agency, Springmedia, 90% of all our new business comes via referral. When I decided that I was going to go on a new business drive, I didn’t start advertising on Google, I didn’t put an advert in a magazine, I joined a business network which resulted in a direct additional £8000 turnover in 6 months and indirectly (ie referrals from new clients that I gained there) another £17,000 in turnover.
People buy from people they know, like and trust
People buy from people that they know, like and trust. And networking gives us the opportunity to develop relationships that can turn into business both as a buyer and a seller. I now have an accountant, book-keeper, a personal VA, a new intern, a printing company and a new team member all via networking… and these are just a few of the new relationships that have developed through this activity.
What’s your objective?
Networking also isn’t all about getting close to the big cheese in the room. It really depends on your objective. The thing that annoys me about this article is it’s lack of perspective, lack of facts and the assumption that networking is all about getting to the top of the tree in an organisation. There are many reasons that women network, such as support, learning, and sales.
… are you a cyber loser?
And then we have the ‘cyber losers’; women who are not utilising social media for business. Clearly this journalist is not following female business owners on Twitter. Technorati has shown that women are twice as likely to do business via social media than men. Women have embraced social networking and Liz Cable who purports herself as a social media expert suggests that women are not promoting themselves in the right way. Again, I have to disagree. I know of multiple women who are generating new business every day via Twitter and Linked In; women such as Ces Loftus of Creatively Minded, Rona Wheeldon from Organised PA and Sarah Turner of Turner Ink. Social media is a great way to build social proof, share a bit of who you are and share and promote the work that you are doing.
I’m not going to get to riled up about this article, as the journalist had started with the premise that women were not good networkers and then went on to deliver a one-sided argument to back it up. As with anything, there are women who are great networkers and women who are poor networkers, but if you would put yourself in the latter category, I highly recommend that you find a way to embrace networking. A couple of great books on the topic are The Jelly Effect: How to Make Your Communication Stick and Brilliant Networking: What the Best Networkers Know, Say and Do . If you have any networking stories, we would love to hear them.
If you want to read more about this, Nancy Williams, has written her response on her blog TigerTwoTiger