Women Working Together Create Power
By Chelse Benham
“We don't accomplish anything in this world alone ... and whatever happens is
the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual
threads from one to another that creates something.” – Sandra Day O'Connor,
associate justice United States Supreme Court
In business today, networking is the social art of seeking and solidifying
relationships by finding common ground and mutual interests between parties.
Sometimes those interests are formed around general criteria that center on
ethnicity, race, religion and gender. Although it is legally not advisable to exclude
individuals from employment based on the above criteria, it is quite normal to
affiliate with like-minded people from those different areas. In the workplace, one
natural division takes shape on the basis of sex that can ultimately create an
According to the 2001 U.S. Census Bureau women comprise 47 percent of the
workforce, but make up only 12 percent of the upper executive ranks and only six
percent of the clout titles such as chairman, chief executive officer, president and
vice president. If these statistics are going to shift in favor of women, they need
to start changing the way they think.
”Women need to form their own parallel support systems. They don’t have to
exclude men, but they need to emphasize or focus on cultivating relationships
with mentors and their role models,” said Dr. Dora Saavedra, associate professor
at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Department of Communications.
“One of the mistakes that women make is trying to be like the men and trying to
fit into that network instead of looking at their own strengths and perspectives
they can contribute to workplace. Women haven’t figured out that you can
promote yourself in a gracious manner without being obnoxious.”
In the workplace, gender association occurs naturally. Men typically play golf
together and a lot of business happens on the course. Then there are the
“restroom meetings” that take place informally within this confidential area that
naturally exclude women. Often, it is here that important information is
Gail Evans, author of “She Wins, You Win,” writes in her book, “Men like to say
that there’s no ‘us versus them’ issue at the office. Then, too often, they go
ahead and treat us as if we were a ‘them.’...Whatever you want to call it –
support, teamwork, assistance – the bottom line is: The boys are all taking care
of each other… In the world of business, women have rarely operated as though
supporting other women was an important part of the job. In fact, many of us
have come to believe that another woman’s gain is our own loss, and conversely
that another woman’s loss is our gain.”
There are many reasons why forming a network is a great idea. Evans suggests
the following reasons why it is good to form a woman’s network:
• to find a mentor,
• to mentor someone,
• to learn about the roadblocks that other women have faced,
• to learn how women obtained their successes,
• to broaden your professional contacts,
• to discuss issues about childrearing and continuing education,
• to expand your friendships outside your office,
• to develop a support group and
• to learn about leadership.
Jerri Conrado, a business image consultant and growth strategist for business
professionals, gives concrete advice about how women can form their own
network that helps support and promote women within the business world.
“I've found that a ‘good ole girls’ network, just like the ‘good ole boys’ network, is
built on in-depth, long-term relationships,” Conrado writes on her Web site
www.jrcpromotions.com “By getting to know each other better at lunch, on the
golf course, mentoring one another and sharing similar values we will refer all
kinds of things to each other naturally. You need to cultivate and nurture your
network before you need it.”
Conrado suggests the following steps in developing a powerful network:
1. Go to lunch with at least one person from the group every week or at least
once per month. Get to know that person over time. Laugh and have fun
2. Be clear and concise when communicating your defining message.
3. Ask for information and support regarding anything you need in your life.
There is probably someone who can help you.
4. Publicly acknowledge the support you receive from each other.
5. Look for opportunities to connect members with other members as often
as possible. Ask how you can look for referrals for each other. Follow up.
6. Integrity is top priority. Keep confidences; don't gossip and give quality
value in all you do. Keep your word and always make fair deals. (Fair to
you as well as the other person.) A good policy is to under commit and
7. Honor your heart, your wisdom and your gifts through your work and your
life. We need great role models.
8. Show up on time, do what you say you are going to do and remember to
say thank you.
9. Ask someone to be your mentor.
10. Mentor someone.
“Mentoring isn’t a discussion. It’s an obligation,” writes Evans. “Every female
boss must study the women coming up the ladder and try to identify the potential
stars. She must then help them achieve that stardom. Part of being on the
women’s team is taking care of other women. The higher up you go, the more
women you take care of.”
You can take care of other women by networking, referring and doing business
with them. Create and join associations that help to advance women.
AdvancingWomen.com describes the most powerful networks:
“They are the ones which are involved every time money
changes hands all over the world, the ones which can make
or break your career, with a nod, a wink or an introduction…
These are the interconnected networks, often known as the
old boys' networks, who can introduce you to each other,
sponsor you, mentor you, guide you and usher you in to
meet the people who can write the biggest checks and who
might take a liking to your deal, particularly if their friends like
For this reason, women are starting their own networks, their
own venture capital firms or angel groups, their own
businesses every day. And we should all support and tap
into these newly existing networks. The point is these
networks, made up of movers and shakers, already up and
running, well oiled and powerful can make the earth move
for a particular individual or business. This is a far cry from
getting someone's business card at a cocktail mixer.
The answer which works best for women is to tap into the
most powerful networks you can. Both the new women's
groups and the traditional male networks offer something
which will get you a little way down the road: make the most
Networking provides opportunities for women to promote each other and there
are things you can do to proactively endorse other women. Evans gives these
• Make sure you always think about women when the subject of a job
comes up. Seek out women for services and women owned businesses.
• Don’t hide. Rather than downplay your assets so that you can look like the
nice girl your mother told you to be, make sure that people know how
skilled and talented you are. Learn to promote yourself. If you don’t, who
will? Don’t be under the false idea that if you quietly do your work
someone will eventually notice and reward you. Let your talents shine.
• Be proud of your title. Trimmings are a part of the workplace. You spent
years fighting for a new title, wear it proudly. It’s about how powerful you
are. Make sure others know.
• Develop a succinct, one paragraph description of yourself. Memorize a
couple of sentences that are clever and smart, so if you’re stuck, you can
shift into your rote speech. Self promotion doesn’t have to mean hubristic
• Be visible. Don’t just join the organization – become known for something.
Be a leader.
• If you help give a woman a job, continue your support. Help her prosper.
Continue to support her.
Women are striving for the same things in life as their men counterparts such as
money, prestige and power. Women don’t have to act in the mode of scarcity.
There is enough business to go around. There are women in all areas of the
workforce to support each other. Next time you want a doctor, a lawyer, an
accountant or business professional think about hiring women in those areas and
give them your business. It may be as simple as altering the way you think about
who to hire that changes the faces in boardrooms across the country. Solidarity
“The history of all times, and of today especially, teaches that ... women will be
forgotten if they forget to think about themselves.” - Louise Otto (1819-1895),
prominent leader of the woman's suffrage movement