There is no doubt about it, networking is critical when it comes to personal fulfillment and professional success. It opens the door to opportunities for growth, collaboration, and meaningful connections. It can create the potential for our jobs to be done more easily, helps us meet people with diverse points of view, and might even reduce the loneliness and disconnection that many of us feel in the world. The right people in our corner as advocates, supporters, and friends can make all the difference as we build and grow our careers.

I’ve done quite a bit of research on networking, and a particularly eye opening question I’m often asked is if I’ve noticed different dynamics between men and women. The answer is yes. And with that in mind, it’s worth looking at both the challenges and opportunities inherent to women, that translate into networking strengths. The secret sauce to building and maintaining connections just might be finding the right balance with what you already do and leaning into it.

Rachel Simon

Vice President — Privacy

But first, why do some women sit it out when it comes to networking? Let’s face it: reaching out to someone new to establish a relationship can be daunting! Here are a few reasons that women have told me they may not engage in networking.

Lack of Confidence: Women may face a confidence gap, hesitating to reach out for fear of appearing self-promotional. Overcoming this hurdle involves recognizing and celebrating achievements and the true value we bring to the table.

Reluctance to Inconvenience: Women may be hesitant to ask for someone’s time, concerned they might inconvenience others. Networking is a reciprocal process, where both parties benefit from the exchange of knowledge and experiences. After all, when done properly networking makes people feel really good.

Cultural Sensitivity: Cultural differences can be more acutely felt by women in networking scenarios. We all look at the world differently, and it may not be the first thought for some women to try and foster working connections with men. Cultivating cultural awareness and fostering an inclusive and diverse environment, sets the stage for opportunities to connect.

Work/Life Balance Struggles: Balancing professional aspirations with personal responsibilities can be a challenge for a lot of women. Historically women experience a disproportionate number of tasks with housework and childcare. If you’re working a full-time job and heading home to another set of full-time responsibilities, there can be little left over for extra commitments. Supportive workplace cultures can acknowledge and accommodate diverse life circumstances.

Despite the multitude of reasons why women might sit out or avoid networking, they possess several unique strengths when it comes to forming relationships. Let’s take a look at these strengths and at how they can build robust networking bonds.

Empathy and Active Listening: Women often bring a heightened sense of empathy and active listening to networking interactions. These qualities may contribute to creating deeper and more meaningful connections, fostering a supportive professional network.

Nurturing and Supportive Nature: The nurturing and supportive nature of some women can transform networking interactions into collaborative relationships. An inclination to uplift others benefits the entire network, creating a culture of mutual support.

Introductions and Fresh Perspectives: Women may be more inclined to make introductions and provide fresh perspectives. This can lead to diverse collaborations and innovative problem-solving within professional circles. Some of my strongest friendships have been the result of an introduction and I love to return the favor.

Commitment to Relationship Building: Women often excel in following up to sustain relationships. This commitment contributes to the longevity and depth of professional connections, fostering a network built on trust and mutual interest.

Understanding the unique challenges faced by women in networking is crucial for creating an environment that promotes inclusivity and equality. Acknowledging and valuing the strengths that women bring to the table, allows room to collectively work towards breaking down barriers and fostering a networking landscape that benefits everyone. After all, true success is achieved when diverse perspectives and talents are embraced!

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