Back in March, the Times ran a piece insisting that women are ‘just not natural networkers’. The (female) author argued that ladies lack the confidence to schmooze their way up the career ladder, instead ‘hiding behind the water cooler at the company do’ while their male counterparts talk themselves up to the boss. In fact, the reason why just 10% of FTSE 100 board members are female is that women ‘lack social capital’ (i.e. social skills), it suggested.
Naturally, this didn't go down well with lots of high-flying corporate women. And now they have some new evidence to support their cause. A new survey, by networking group Women Unlimited (so not exactly the most objective source in the world) has found that women attend networking events on a regular basis: more than one in five go to more than five networking events a month, while 75% network at least twice a month.
What’s more, they get more out of it than free canapés. 83% say they do it to get referrals, and almost 80% say they do it to learn. But more impressively, 85% said they’ve made a sale as a result of networking – while one in five has made sales of more than £10,000 in a year. Hard to do that when you're hiding behind a water cooler. So in other words, the survey suggests - contrary to the Times’ assertion - that women aren't bad at networking at all. In fact, they’re using networking events in exactly the same way men are: to make new contacts and drum up business.
That said, we’re pretty sceptical about any kind of attempt to generalise about how good men or women are at networking. For a start, the ability to schmooze is very hard to quantify; if networking is about relationship-building, you can't just tot up the number of business cards collected in an evening (for instance). What’s more, networking skills surely vary from person to person; we’re not sure they’re more common in men than women (or vice-versa, for that matter). Male or female, some people have what it takes to schmooze their way up the greasy pole, while others would rather hide in the corner. Besides, there are probably other fronts in the ongoing battle of the sexes that deserve greater attention – the gender pay gap, for one...
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