Cheryl offers: Last week SMU Executive Education hosted the introductory session for their new women’s program, Women in Motion. The session was attended by high level women in consulting, telecommunications, IT sales, accounting, law and others. The title of the session was a reference to the book, Through the Labyrinth, by Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli. The activities were clearly linked to the book; I know, I’ve read it. The reference to the labyrinth certainly seems a lot more plausible today than the old glass ceiling. The idea of a labyrinth has been around since ancient mythology and conveys the idea of a complex journey with a goal worth achieving. As Eagly and Carli point out “Passage through a labyrinth is not simple or direct, but requires persistence, awareness of one’s progress, and a careful analysis of the puzzles that lie ahead.” This seems to be much more the case for women contemplating successful careers today in any field, private or public, corporate or entrepreneurial. The really attractive part of referring to a woman’s career success as a labyrinth to me is the fact that a labyrinth offers the true possibility of success, whereas the old glass ceiling seemed to indicate being trapped forever hungering for a world that can only be seen, never acquired. We’ve come a long way baby!
Sara says: We were having lunch with a young woman today who mentioned she was from a small town in Louisiana. When she shared the name of the town, I asked if she knew Frank and Jane, the sister and brother-in-law of my neighbors. Not only did she know them but they were her parent’s best friends. I’ve often said that 6 degrees of separation are often 2 too many! It’s not unusual for a woman to pick elements from a conversation (‘I work for a non-profit’ or ‘I need to change accountants’) to begin that elegant dance of “Do you know…?” It is second nature for women to connect. The nature of women should make them perfect for networking in business!
I thought it would be easy. I would simply flip through a couple of books about women and find support for my theory of women as network mavens. You could blow me over with a feather when I found just the opposite. Women get lost in the weeds at work and don’t take time to network. They are not as comfortable with those “off the record conversations” networking conversations. And they don’t get to the places where many decision are being made like golf courses, sports bars and … sometimes the most important, the men’s washroom! These ideas are taken from Why Women Mean Business, Whittenberg-Cox and Maitland …the words are mine. The bottom line is that we women have to get off the dance floor and up on the balcony. We need to be courageous and sometimes we may need to step in where we are not invited. Networking is a woman’s strength…but only if she uses it.
Cheryl offers: I recall working in one department at a large corporation that frequently met at golf resorts. I don’t play and I don’t drink beer. By the time we actually got to the business meeting, I often found many decisions had already been made, sometimes directly affecting my areas of responsibility. The first time I was surprised, the second time I was angry. There was no third time; I found another job.
According to research cited in Through the Labyrinth by Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli, women recognize the importance of networks as much or more than men. The perception we aren’t as good at it is based more on the causes than on the outcome. Women tend to carry more of the family responsibilities than men, leaving less time for networking. I can’t go for drinks after work if I’m shopping for dinner or taking the kids to soccer practice. I won’t likely invest half a day playing golf on the weekends when soccer games generally occur and I’ve got to pick up the cleaning, drop off a pair of shoes to be repaired, or visit a parent in assisted living. The most compelling reasons for finding the time to network come from research that shows creating “social capital” through networking “can be even more essential to managers’ advancement than skillful performance of traditional managerial tasks.” That fact alone tells me and every other woman we can’t just outperform our male counterparts. We must engage in the very important activity of networking AND it needs to be in both female and male dominated networks in order to be effective. The old saying about our need to be twice is good also plays here: We need to network in twice as many places!