Few months back I accidentally became a part of the Startup network. Soon I was hanging out with entrepreneurs (primarily tech) and was talking to them on every social (media) platform. Surprisingly in this network I could not find many women. Few were active on social networking sites and many seldom responded. I have never been great at networking. Is it me or are women generally averse to making a lot of contacts? Are men better at this skill? I wanted to find out answers to my questions, so I planned a fun project. I created a survey of 10 questions and collected responses from a small sample group. The results might be a little skewed because of the methodology, but nonetheless I am sure you will enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed doing this exercise!
A quick brief of my survey:
- I got 25 responses out of the 40 requests that I sent
- Around 60% respondents were my Twitter contacts and 40% offline friends
- The respondents are a mix of Entrepreneurs, Photographers, Psychologists and other Professionals
- The survey primarily revolved around understanding the style of networking and experiences of people while networking with the opposite gender
Here is a summary of the questions which received the best responses:
1. How are women as compared to their male counterparts in building professional networks?
2. On meeting strangers and importance of networking events v/s family gathering:
- Both genders shared similar views on being nervous when they enter a room full of strangers. Their worst fears were – fear of rejection and inability to find appropriate topics to open a conversation
- Both genders give importance to family gatherings over a networking event
3. How difficult it is for women to break into “The Boy’s” informal groups?
Men felt that it is not difficult for women to break into the boy’s informal groups whereas women felt otherwise. Both genders agreed that they need to have common interests or topics to talk about. Either of them didn’t want to get carried into other’s world. E.g. Men would like to talk about beer, food & sports whereas women like discussing family, friends and shopping!
4. On Beer or meal meetings with opposite gender:
Both men and women disagreed that drink or meal meetings happen only with people from the same gender. However women said that they like to keep their meetings safe. They preferred a “coffee meeting” over a “beer chat”.
5. On objectives of networking:
- The group was equally divided over their goal of networking. Half of the population said that business is their primary reason to network but they wouldn’t mind making friends from these contacts. Whereas the second half stated otherwise.
- One important point that came up in the survey was that both genders agreed that men are more interested in networking for business or career benefits than building personal relationships. A 2011 report by the Toulouse School of Economics in France concluded that a major reason behind female directors earning 17% less than their male counterparts was the fact they were less good at building a network. The study found that in general the male directors had much larger networks of past acquaintances, while female directors instead focused on a few strong relationships.
My quick take from the survey – both genders can learn from each other’s style of networking. Women can learn to form passing acquaintances and links to increase their circle of support and men can add a little personal touch to their conversations when they meet someone next.
Sneak peek into some fun responses:
A participant said “Men hesitate to start conversation with a woman so as not to impose themselves. If a woman starts the dialogue it becomes lot easier to converse”
A woman said “Men at times pass comments on a woman’s appearance and ask their relationship status, which makes the conversation awkward”
And this one is the best. I laughed when I read a man share “Women are very wary when they talk to men, as if everyone wants to flirt with them!” I hope you enjoyed the read. Do share your take on the subject in the comment box below.