Women leaders: Why support and networking matters in the corporate world
Subscribing to smaller, more focused women's networks can help to normalise experiences, strengthen the talent pipeline, and give women a place to support one another.
Connectivity wields enormous power and influence. In today's fast-paced and competitive world, networking can aid people in a variety of contexts — from securing a job to launching a business. Making connections and building relationships with other professionals allows a vast majority of people to stay a step ahead.
When it comes to networking, while it is critical to include people of all genders and perspectives, there is a significant gender imbalance in the workforce that must be addressed. Globally, women account for only 18 percent of executives, 37 percent of the total workforce, and 5 percent of CEOs, underscoring the large margin by which men outnumber women at all levels in the workplace. In India, the percentage of women in the workforce stands at a meagre 23 percent.
In such a scenario, building a robust, supportive and dynamic network of connections can provide women with key insights that lead to successful organisational redesign and business performance. Women who network can also learn strategies to ask for promotions, seek fair pay, and even become mentors to others, creating a positive cycle of change for women in the workplace.
Personally, networking has been one of my biggest strengths and the importance of having an inner circle cannot be overstated. Despite having a large network, some of the most successful women also have an additional smaller inner network of women that they’re close with. It's important to build a support system that goes the extra mile in providing a space for gender issues and equality to be discussed without judgement.
There is tremendous power in connectivity. In the broader professional spectrum, it lets women identify role models, mentors and expand their professional opportunities and redresses the balance by assisting women in creating valuable long-term business relationships, hearing advice from peers and professionals, and sharing knowledge and experiences, all with an emphasis on connecting and collaborating.
The ROI of networking
Even though accounts suggest that women are typically more ‘social’ than men, extensive reports establish that women actually network less than men. Women also have fewer opportunities to access senior leadership positions than their male counterparts. The reason behind this is also a classic case of unconscious bias - boys are encouraged and taught to network at a young age; girls simply aren’t.
And these are not just numbers, but a reflection of how societies function. More importantly, it throws light on how personal interaction shapes professional trajectory. Networking is a great way to build self-confidence, get advice from experienced players, discuss challenges, and even find solutions to problems from time to time. It also helps in opening new windows of opportunities, support, sharpening communication skills, and fostering long-lasting relationships.
Supporting women's networks
Despite all the progress made in the corporate world in the last few years, unfortunately, most industries don’t treat men and women equally or provide support systems to help narrow discrepancies. Subscribing to smaller, more focused women's networks can help to normalise experiences, strengthen the talent pipeline, and give women a place to support one another.
Not only is such networking vital in fostering the discussion of specific topics but it also plays a powerful role in preserving women's point of view within organisations. Moreover, it emphasises participation, relationship building, and allows women to make peer to peer connections.
With most jobs filled through networking, connectivity and building professional relationships can be massive assets in the long term. Putting in a bit of extra legwork in asking colleagues or managers for help or tips on networking can make a big difference in forging relationships and enhancing professional performance. As someone who has continuously worked towards building support systems for women at BYJU’S, and works alongside some of the brightest and most talented women, I strongly believe that it is in our hands to create a cycle of positive transformation. Breaking unconscious biases within us is a great first step towards this. It’s time for women to come together to build trust, relationships and a powerful inner circle that will help shape leaders of the future.