Can women's own networks help?
But what does the researcher feel about networks specifically intended for women? If they work for men, why would they not work for women as well?
“Unfortunately, our research does not unequivocally support the idea that networks for women alone would work better. The reason for this is that the networking needs for women in different stages of their careers do not necessarily link up with each other”, Marjo-Riitta Diehl explains.
“We observed that the few women who have made great advances in their careers might not find a need to network with younger women, because they have already achieved everything according to the rules written by men. Meanwhile, women in mid-career know that reaching the top is very demanding, and if they are also living their peak years, they often expect to benefit from networks and to get a good return on the time that they use for networking. The youngest women, meanwhile, may not even see their gender as something that would affect their careers. They might seek out opportunities for networking more for entertainment than as conscious formation of relationships that would benefit their careers.”
Networks intended exclusively for women can nevertheless be useful for the development of women's working careers, as they can be sources of information about available jobs, or facilitate exchanging experiences about pay negotiations.
Women appear to like to do their networking “on the side”, meaning that the networking can take place in connection with some other theme, such as investing, or exercise. On the other hand, that is how networking among men often happens! It is important to clearly define the goals of networks and to plan the activity accordingly, without necessarily having networking at the epicentre.
“Women's networks must not be labelled exclusively as places to raise glasses of sparkling wine, because with careful planning of their goals and activities, they really can be used in creating useful contacts, and thereby to promote the advancement of women in their careers”, Marjo-Riitta Diehl says.
Link to an article published in Forbes, in which Professor Diehl discusses women's position in work life