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Why Women’s Networks Are Crucial

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Women’s networks are on the rise – and for good reasons. They provide access to resources many might find hard to acquire and connections to people with similar challenges. In an attempt to offer the same to their own employees, pioneering companies are starting to build internal female-centered networks too. But is it really worth it?

Women sitting on couch with laptop
Foto: Unsplash

women search for dedicated networks to help them elevate their personal life and professional career

Women’s networks are everywhere – in businesses, tech, startups, medicine, journalism, and within companies. Let's start by understanding why female-centered networks are important. Looking at labour statistics and research regarding networking, the case becomes clear quite fast:

First of all, the current global labour force participation rate for women is just under 47%. For men, it’s 72% – and the majority of the business world is represented by men. Only 33% of leadership roles worldwide are held by women. In technology, which increasingly determines our present and future, just about 26.7% of tech jobs are held by women.

While these might be solvable problems, most companies and organizations don’t consider that women work and network differently than men – which can be a major hurdle. Our entire professional landscape is designed for men, including the way we network. Only today, we are finally becoming aware of it and starting to make a change – and women's networks are part of it. In order to get a clearer picture, let's look at the difference between women and men for a minute.

differences among networking styles - a scientific argument

Fortunately, there’s some precise research on how women and men differ in their networking styles. Brian Uzzi, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at the American Kellogg School of Management, analyzed over 4,5 million emails of 728 MBA graduates (75 % men, 25 % women) to find out which types of networks make people thrive.

people discussing at a table
As it turns out, women thrive on different networks than men. Foto: Headway

meetings discussions and negotiating

Uzzi found that male MBA students with a broad (really broad) network performed best in the job market and secured themselves jobs with more authority and pay. With a network like that, individual characteristics such as test scores, work experience or GPA turned secondary.

Women who networked like men focusing on centrality rather than quality ranked among the lowest in authority and pay.

Women who networked like men focusing on centrality rather than quality ranked among the lowest in authority and pay.

3️⃣ Three types of women’s networks

Now that we have acknowledged that women tend to have different needs in terms of networking in order to thrive – what better place could provide that than a women’s network?

Generally, there are three types of women’s networks with each one providing unique benefits:

  1. Networks of women in similar positions which allow their members to share strategies with each other (e.g. women-only networks, leaders-level communities)

  2. Networks of diverse women which create the opportunity to meet women that are unlike themselves but could be helpful financially or politically (e.g. mentoring programs or career networks such as the female factor)

  3. Networks that provide their members with access to resources they might find hard to acquire (e.g. a financial community for women)

While some networks might fall into exactly one category, most will be a hybrid of two or even all three of those categories. Internal company networks are most likely a mixture of the first two options, fostering exchange and a strong network within their own employees.

The three C’s to success

Networks on their own are great already, but not enough. In order to make the most out of them, women should focus on the three C’s, – beyond the (1) connections of a network, women must also have the (2) competence and the (3) confidence to reach their full potential. When joining a network, look out for the three Cs of success.

"Beyond the connections of a network, women must also have the capacity and the confidence to reach their full potential." – Tanja Sternbauer, co-founder & co-ceo, the female factor

Cup with "the future is female" written on it
When joining a network, look out for the three C's of success. Foto: Cowomen

Only if women’s networks combine activities that build confidence, connections and (professional or personal) competences, they're likely to have the lasting impact needed to achieve global female empowerment. After all, we might need to re-think old school networking overall.

Why the importance of women's networks is unquestionable

Eventually, women's networks are crucial for equity and subsequently, closing the gender leadership gap. As Brian Uzzi puts it: “[the study] suggests that women face a greater challenge in networking to find professional opportunities – they, more than men, need to maintain both wide networks and informative inner circles in order to land the best positions.”

Furthermore, women's networks emphasize quality over quantity which is a key strategy for creating a reliable, secure network. On the individual level, joining a women’s network means stepping out of one’s closed circle and facing new people with different backgrounds – which can result in important, lasting relationships and a major boost in confidence and competence.

On an organizational level, enabling female employees’ access to inclusive women networks is not only reassuring but is also perceived as an inclusive move. It also creates a safe place for making connections, sharing information and acts like a confidence enhancer. It shows female employees that equality and inclusivity are nurtured and that both their personal and professional development are encouraged.

If you are currently evaluating the options to start or foster your internal female-centered network or if you would like to partner with an existing one to empower and retain your own female employees, we're happy to join forces with you.


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