In a previous post we discussed a recent study that looked at the different ways men and women find success in their networking strategies.
The study found that among men, “the more influential connections a male student had across the schoolwide network, the higher his leadership placement would be.”
However, The Washington Post (WaPo) reports that among “the women, the authors were surprised by the findings: 77 percent of the highest-achieving women had strong ties with an inner circle of two to three other women. The lowest-achieving women had a male-dominated network and weaker ties with other women in their network.”
So, what explains this difference? WaPo points to a couple of factors:
While male-centered networking may be more transactional and loose-knit, the study suggests that women might benefit from a closer-knit, more supportive model.
“Having a tight[-]knit circle of female friends provided women with a support system as they navigated the job market,” says WaPo. “The women in these circles would share company information specific to women, such as details about a company’s workplace culture for women.”
Another factor that seemed to influence the success factors for female versus male networking is the leveraging of existing networks. The networks formed by women benefited from more than just knowing the people in the immediate network; they were able to take advantage of the networks that each individual woman brought to the new group.
There are many differences between men and women in the workplace. Some are driven by social norms, others by history. Rather than trying to erase these differences, it may be beneficial for women to first understand, appreciate, and capitalize on the ways they interact in the workplace that are different from how men interact.
Companies can also play a role in helping both female and male workers develop their networks both through work-related team activities and social events. Networking matters.