Women in Leadership — Is There a Mapquest Link?

Anytime a man (and I ‘are’ one) attempts to discuss the challenges faced by women in leadership, it’s a risky proposition.

What the hell… I’ve never been much for dancing around an issue, and this one presents a legitimate question:

To achieve professional success, must women learn — and get better at — networking “like a man,” or should a woman’s approach differ significantly solely because she’s a women?

This article is a Forbes piece that discusses this issue. I don’t portend to know the trials and tribulations that a professional woman faces in ascending the corporate ladder; I do know it can be a difficult path for some. I’ve personally seen women face challenges in their professional growth that I did not face, and at least part of the reason was gender.

So, I do appreciate the potential roadblocks, even if I can’t say something so trite as “I know exactly what you’re going through…”

Using real-world practices then, as a filter, should women with higher career aspirations learn to network like men (presumably to reach outcomes “more like men”), or does that downplay the need for doing it differently?

You want to know what I think?? Of course you do, that’s why you’re reading this… 🙂

I think women should simply get better at networking, not necessarily do anything different because of their sex. And before I raise any hackles, this is the same advice I give aspiring men. Network. Do it sincerely, make an effort, do it as if your career depends on it, because it does.

Do women face challenges in climbing the ladder that men don’t face? Of course they do. Corporate USA has made some strides, but still has a long way to go. The reality, then, is that women should be networking more and better than men (sort of like the “dancing backwards and in high heels” joke), and I seldom see that.

Not that men are really good at it, and certainly not because they’re men; but if you face a systemic obstacle (or even perceive you face one), your efforts must be bigger, stronger, and faster than those who do not face that obstacle.

Those obstacles could be sex, race, sexual orientation… they could be professional background, newly separated military, or later-in-life career-changers. Whatever the real or perceived obstacle, your efforts — particularly around networks and relationship-building, must be redoubled. Victim or victor, it’s largely your choice in the long run.

Some would say “that’s not fair.” I shouldn’t have to work harder just because of some of those things… to that, I say “You want fair?” It comes to most towns once a year; they have rides, and clowns, and cotton candy. That’s about the only reliable “fair” you’ll see around here. Life’s hard, wear a helmet.

I say, make your own ‘fair.’

But that’s just me…

KB

Kevin Berchelmann
http://www.triangleperformance.com/

Comments

  1. says

    Networking is networking, and I think that while it is possible to make some generalized statements about gender differences in style, the most important thing is to research what works, apply it, and meld best practices with your own personality.

    Whenever I hear another woman entrepreneur talk about the challenges of being in a "man's world" I think to myself that approaching life from a victim/disadvantaged point of view probably isn't helping them much.

    Enjoyed your post. Thanks.

  2. says

    I have worked in a number of different industries and it seems to me that the answer to the question (Do women need to network like men to get ahead…?) depends upon the industry. For example, I began my career in law firms. My experience was that the comment a previous poster made about “sports” really rang true in the law firm world – specifically, it was important to be able to “talk” (and probably play) golf. I have some friends in the financial industry and it appears to be important in that arena as well.

    For the last few years, however, I’ve focused my career on non-profit and government services. These industries have a high percentage of women in positions of authority. Because of that, it seems that the “woman” way of networking (if, indeed – there is such a thing…) is more likely to be the norm.

    I also think that this has a generational component to it. I’m Gen-X and it seems that there are more conversational similarities between me and my male Gen-X co-workers than you would see between men and women Boomer co-workers. By the same token, I think Gen-Y men and women have even more in common (from a conversational, networking perspective) than Gen-Xers do.

    On another note, I must say that I think that any time men and women are attempting to interract on a purely professional basis, they face certain challenges. It can (and should) be done successfully – but we should never fool ourselves into thinking that the way men and women relate can (or should) be exactly the same as the way two men or two women relate to each other. Again – just my two cents. We all need to get out there and market ourselves, but we should be aware that it will be perceived differently depending upon a number of factors, INCLUDING: industry, gender, and generation.

  3. says

    OMG Kevin – we agree! My business has been built on networking – I’m open, curious, sincere in my interest in others AND work to connect other people who should be connected.

    Do I do it differently from a man? I don’t know. I do know that I’m referred to as a networking guru at Chamber of Commerce events. People will always bring new members to me (and I don’t work for the Chamber) because they know I’ll introduce them to others.

    Quite frankly – I’ve been blessed. I’ve not “suffered” or been held back because I’m a woman; in fact, I believe it’s advantageous in my profession (selling and HR).

    So ladies (and men) – get yourselves out there. There is a professional association, Chamber of Commerce or networking group waiting to meet you. And, be sure to have some fun while you’re at it!

    Karen Young, SPHR
    President (because I picked the title)
    HR Resolutions

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