In Catalyst’s 2011 Study, The Myth of the Ideal Worker. That study revealed that for high performing women who wanted to close the gap between themselves and their male peers in terms of promotion rates the only two behaviors that mattered were Making their Achievements Known and Networking with Powerful Others.
Research shows that even women who are excellent networkers may not have a network that is as powerful as their male peers. According to sociologist William Bielby, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago,”Women’s networks may be wider but they don’t reach as high a level as men, who tend to be better connected, particularly in (terms of) getting professional news, to more high-status people. ”
What does this mean to you? It could mean that a male peer gets a heads up on a position coming available in your company earlier than you do. Or maybe they learn who will be on the decision making committee before you do. Or maybe they even know the decision makers.
So what to do?
- Review your current network. First, group people by seniority- How many really powerful people do you have in your network? Next identify powerful individuals that you think could have an influence on your career. And make sure there are some powerful men on the list.
- Research and evaluate which candidates you feel the strongest connection to and who can be most influential in helping you achieve your goals. Then learn as much as you can about them- current speaking engagements, publications, work priorities, outside interests, schools, former companies etc.
- Prioritize several targets with whom you have enough in common to engage in discussion. For example if someone worked at the same company prior to this one as you did, “I noticed that you also spent a long time at Former Company. I would be interested in spending a few minutes comparing notes on what skills you learned at former company that have been most useful here. “
- Go for it! For a lot of people this is outside their comfort zone- start with someone with whom you have more in common until you feel like you are getting better at building these connections. And make sure while you meet with them that you are articulating what value you bring to the table- promoting yourself. After all, that is the point!