Women's Network: Yellow Eve Illustration

The networking gap and why women are limited by their own self-beliefs

Networking has long since been recognised as a powerful, and as Forbes describes “essential”, tool for career development. “It’s who you know” is taken quite literally for many as they discover opportunities and climb the ranks through their connections professional and personal.

Research shows that 85%* of new hires are made through networking, and Forbes highlights ten reasons why it’s shrewd to schmooze, including relationship-building and opportunities to improve your creative intellect. As personal branding expert, author and speaker Bianca Miller Cole writes for Forbes,networking is not only about trading information, it also serves as an avenue to create long-term relationships with mutual benefits.”

In a survey conducted by Ivan Minser, CO of the Business Networking Organisation (BNI), he found that networking for 8+ hours per week is the sweet spot for success!

Another wall for women at work

Yet studies highlight networking as another chasm women must cross if they’re to keep up with their male counterparts. Data gathered by LinkedIn in March 2020* highlights that women around the world are 14% – 38% less likely than men to have a strong network, and for the UK this lands at 27%.

So why are women less likely to network it?

Low self-worth

Research from Science Daily* highlights several barriers which prevent women from professional socialising, most notable a lack of self-worth. The study of high-powered women in German corporations found that not only are women excluded from networking in an “extrinsic barrier of structural exclusion from powerful networks”, but that they also have predisposition to underestimate and undersell their professional value.

This is compounded by the fact women also showed more concern for not exploiting their social ties for career purposes – and therefore are less likely to use existing connections than men. This lack of confidence and purpose means women fall a little short by comparison to men who – as Women in the Workplace writer Lisa Rabasca Roepe describes it for Fast Company – “have a long history of getting to positions of power by leveraging their connections.”

Tighter networks

According to the August 2020 Economic Journal report Network Structure and Performance*, women also have different networking styles. The study found that while men are focused on the short-term need, women are more engaged with building long-term personal connections tend to form smaller, deeper networks based on trust.

Anja Prummer, economist and co-author of the research spoke with Marketplace Morning Report saying “Women’s networks generate a lot of trust and a lot of peer pressure. Because if you are at work and you have a project failure with one of your teammates, then not only are you and your teammate affected by it, so are the people who connected you.”

As Prummer explains, this can be detrimental to the project at hand and the networking is less effective. Meanwhile men’s networks tend to be sparser and more focused on short-term gain, meaning they ultimately attain more opportunities to elevate themselves.

Childcare commitments

We recently wrote about the motherhood penalty, and in 2019 a study by Forbes revealed that childcare commitments are another wall between women and high-power networking. Gender bias specialist Kim Elsseler writes “we know women still bear the brunt of child-care at home…which can cut into free time available for networking, and the women in the study reported this issue was a barrier to their ability to network. Frequently networking events are held in the evening or on the weekend, and even informal get-togethers typically occur after work, creating conflicts for women with family obligations.”

How can we close this gap?

According to LinkedIn, there are three things which impact your networking capacity, including where you grow up, where you go to school and where you work – these factors have the potential to give you a 12x advantage in accessing opportunities. However for women, we know that the barriers we’re facing in networking are also intrinsic and due to our self-limiting beliefs and that is ground we can work to cover ourselves. LinkedIn’s Networking Gap study found that women are 32% more likely to take a course in networking, suggesting we are already actively seeking to address this gap.

Addressing self-worth and accessing resources which help you tap into your self-assurance and networking chutzpah is a great place to start. Sessions such as ‘Discovering Your Personal Values’ and ‘I Am Remarkable: Building Your Confidence’, free to Yellow Eve members, are an example of how women can grow their confidence and engage with more networking opportunities and grow their confidence along the way. The positive reinforcement found in such supportive networks can then compound those feelings of self-belief, creating an upward cycle of connections and confidence.

Networking platforms themselves can also take more responsibility for equality and making concerted efforts to expand and diversify. LinkedIn has made huge efforts to ensure equal opportunities on their platform, and recently launched their Plus one Pledge which asks it’s users to pledge to share their time, talent, or connections with people outside their own network or who may not have access to the same resources.

On an individual level we can play our part in this by being mindful of the people we follow and connect with, the articles and work that we share and who we put forward for opportunities. Meanwhile businesses and other event hosts can consider the need for flexible timings. Knowing that childcare, travel and other commitments can be a barrier – and not just for women – this kind of inclusive planning is key to us getting out of our own echo chambers in both online and offline communities.

Finally, join an accessible network (like Yellow Eve)! For a long time women’s networking communities were exclusive, expensive and inaccessible to the majority. Now, social media makes it much easier for women to connect and support one another, as they can share their experiences and tips freely online, in a flexible way and without potential blockers such as time and location. Meanwhile accessible networking communities like Yellow Eve bring women together in a way which is affordable and takes into account different needs and levels of confidence with networking as a whole.

Hannah Ruth Hassack - Social Media Expert

Hannah Ruth

Hannah Ruth is a social media expert and a contributing writer for Yellow Eve. You can connect with her here. 

References: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

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