I don’t often focus specifically on networking for women, but today, in honor of my grandmother’s 82nd birthday (Happy Birthday, Nanny Rosie!), I want to celebrate the strong and powerful women in my life. It’s been my good fortune to be surrounded by amazing, influential women since I was a child. Among my most important role models, these women helped me to understand, from the beginning, that I truly could accomplish whatever I set out to achieve. It wasn’t a matter of male vs. female – that simply wasn’t a factor. I’ve always been driven, focused and, as was once said of me, “aggressive in a good way.” In fact, my dad refers to me as his “toughest son” (sorry, Eric and Shawn, but you know it’s true!)! That said, women and men network differently and it is useful to acknowledge some of those differences so that each can capitalize on her/his strengths to create meaningful networking experiences.
A few weeks ago, my dear friend, Karen Glickstein (another powerful woman in my life – one of my longest running mentors, role models and advocates) and her law firm, Polsinelli Shughart, hosted its annual women’s networking event. I love this program – Karen launched it many years ago and it is one of those activities that I make an effort to attend every year, if possible. She always finds compelling speakers whose wisdom and guidance teach and inspire the participants.
This year’s featured speaker was Arin Reeves of Nextions, a leadership and inclusion expert who has worked with leadership development and inclusion in the workplace for almost 20 years. Arin’s talk was all about women and power and she had some important points to share about how men and women operate differently. The pieces that I found particularly interesting were those points that focused on networking.
Arin told us that after assessing their success at networking events, it turned out that women and men left with similar numbers of new contacts. Following the events, women reached out to their new contacts right away – more quickly than did men. However, after six months, women were still building email relationships with their new contacts. Women said that until they got to know their contacts better by email, they felt awkward asking for meetings… yet, once they did get to know their new contacts, they said they didn’t want to exploit them by asking for favors. Meanwhile, men sent one introductory email and asked for a meeting therein. The men successfully landed meetings and were starting to transact business while women were still corresponding by email.
There are several lessons to be gleaned from this story and other information that Arin shared. Among them:
- Women are better at developing relationships, but fail to ask for what they need. So, ask for the meeting! Ask for the information or introductions or advice or whatever it is that you need.
- Men derive power from individuality. Women derive power from being part of a collective. Women can harness this power by acknowledging wins along the way and multiplying their power. Each woman’s success contributes to the sustained success and power of all women.
- To help achieve their goals, women must hire themselves as their own advocates and enlist the collaborative strength of two or three other people who will help hold them accountable. In this way, women can create personal advisory boards for themselves.
Women – see yourself as powerful! Others already do. The marriage of your own personal perspectives and that of others will help you to advance to greater heights!
For more leadership insights from Arin Reeves, check out her new book, The Next IQ: The Next Level of Intelligence for 21st Century Leaders, available in mid-July.