“How do I get ahead?” Asks frustrated women in stagnating career paths everywhere.
Inevitably, someone will answer, “just network more”.
Let’s be frank here. ‘Networking’ is an action, not a solution. And women already excel in it, thank you very much. Women work well in teams – how is that not networking? Women tend to be better at emotional intelligence, and reading social cues – how are those qualities bad for networking? In short, women have the skills in networking, but not the results.
So no, I will not accept ‘just network more’ as an answer. It is too insulting to women everywhere. I believe we need to take a closer look at how ‘networking’ fails women, because obviously we are missing out on something big here.
According to the working paper of Lily Fang, associate professor of finance at INSEAD and Sterling Huang, a Ph.D. candidate in the same school, 1815 male and female Wall Street analysts in their study start off with an equal number of school-based connections, but male candidates are likely to get more help from their contacts. That is not all. Hiring bias in academic science was exposed after male applicants were viewed as more competent and hireable than female applicants, despite having identical resumes.
Ah, so gender bias is the problem.
Advice for Women who Network
Currently, men and women advance at different rates despite having the same networking opportunities and working capabilities. How can women remedy this problem? More networking can be the answer, but only to improve the chances, statistically speaking. The aim is to improve the quality of the connections, and to make others more likely to view women favorably, based on merits and not unconscious bias.
In order to do this, address gender bias diplomatically, but right in the core. Use the tried and tested peer review tactic – speak more favorably of other women, openly and in public. Women’s traits are deeply valuable to the workforce and it is time to be perceived as such. When women endorse other women, they are also indirectly endorsing themselves. Here are three ways how women can do it.
Three Ways to Endorse Other Women Like A Pro
Firstly, women can endorse other women by being conscious of the words they choose to describe her qualities, as it can make a big impact on how she is perceived. According to a news report, women are more likely to be called ‘bossy’, ’emotional’, and ‘bitchy’, compared to their male counterparts. Because negative labels for women are more socially accepted, turning it into a positive label can make a huge difference – and somewhat entertaining, as well. Here are some conversations, as examples:
Colleague: “Ugh, she’s so bossy”
You: “Yes, I agree that she is assertive. That’s a great quality in a leader. Did you know department exceeded target profits for this quarter?”
Colleague: “She didn’t agree with my idea. It must be the time of the month”
You: “That is strange, I find her feedback very valuable and useful. She is one of the best in her field, after all. Perhaps you can ask her for her input – I’m sure your idea can be improved!”
Colleague: “The only reason why she’s so good at her work is because she pays nannies to look after her children instead of doing it herself”
You: “That is an effective time management skill!”
Implementing damage control like the above can help to stop women’s career regression. A woman’s proven leadership capability should not be allowed to be penalised. Her biological function or her parenting skills should not even be talked about – you don’t hear the same about men, do you?
Secondly, women can also endorse other women by directly recommending her, as well as actively seeking for collaborations and opportunities to work together. This seems simple, but it is not a regular occurrence – women were raised to compete with other women, says Sophia Nelson, author of The Woman Code.
Subconsciously, the reason why we don’t praise other women – or even say things like “I don’t do/have women friends” – is because we view them as competitors, not as allies. Stop this counterproductive habit. Instead, bring up other women’s accomplishments in conversations. Ignore the ones who insist on tearing women down – it is not your responsibility to change a lifetime of habit.
Thirdly, women can create their own network of like-minded women during networking opportunities. According to a study, women are more likely to be interrupted than men, by both men and women. Whenever this happens during networking, women can stop the ‘manterrupting‘ by giving encouraging comments like, “wait, I want to hear the rest of her idea” whenever it takes place. Make your contribution as wingwoman invaluable to her – and your own – empowerment.
So go ahead, take the suggestions above and address the gender bias directly in the best way you can, and increase the quality of your contacts from networking at the same time.
She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).
Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).