Does networking work for women? (Guest Commentary)

Men make contacts or close deals, while women want to build relationships
By Elaine Allison
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/22/2007

Meeting one contact can often change the course of a person’s life or income level or expand career opportunities. In business or professional environments, men have won the game of networking on their terms. Men tend to have a mission when they attend a business networking function, such as making contacts or closing a deal. Women prefer a slower approach designed to build a relationship.

Over the decades, men have enjoyed a variety of business network settings, including the golf course. Their objectives are clear. Play golf (and actually win), make contacts and close deals. Although many women are now enjoying golf, they have not found the time in their busy schedules to get to the course often enough to play well. When I asked women what they thought of networking (especially with regards to their careers), they felt traditional networking was awkward, too forward or pushy. So they often don’t use this option to further their careers or get included in certain circles. Women tend to prefer workshops, conferences or learning environments where they can share ideas and connect with each other at a slower pace.

Women have a strong preference for sharing, caring and collaboration. If they attend a networking event, and feel they are being “sold” too quickly without an opportunity to build a relationship first, they have a tendency to retreat. Many professional career women find networking organizations geared toward finding sales opportunities a turn-off and won’t go back.