Money Motivation

The importance and value of networking for women in business

May 1, 2023
two woman in black sits on chair near table

Over the years, women have made significant strides in the business world, breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes. However, there is still a long way to go, especially when it comes to women in business taking full advantage of one of the most important and valuable business-building tools at their disposal – networking.

Today, networking has become an essential aspect of success in the business world. However, women often approach networking differently than men, and as a result, may not derive the same benefits from it as their male counterparts do.

My experience at hundreds of women in business networking events has taught me that women tend not to take full advantage of these networking opportunities. There are a number of likely reasons for this, not least a misperception that networking is an inconvenience or something they simply don’t have time for. Women are often juggling multiple roles, including work, family, and other responsibilities. As a result, networking may simply not seem like a priority to many of us.

Of course, networking can be a powerful tool for advancing one’s career, building your business, getting access to new clients or suppliers, increasing opportunities for collaboration and learning from others. This is why women’s perceptions of networking need to shift from it being inconvenient to it being essential and invaluable.

A second reason why women in business often miss out on the full value of networking is that they have a tendency to write off potential connections too quickly if they don’t see immediate value. I have seen this first-hand at many events. Many women assume that if they don’t see the benefits of a potential connection straight away, it’s not worth the effort.

However, building relationships takes time and effort, and it’s essential to invest in building these connections to see the long-term benefits. Furthermore, women tend to nurture relationships more, and as a result, often invest more time on building valuable relationships.

Then, many women tend to shy away from networking because they assume that other women are too busy or burdened with their own work to have the time to network with them. This is a false assumption, and women must realise that networking is not only about receiving the benefit – it’s a two-way street. By investing time in building relationships, they also offer value to others and build a network of contacts who can offer support and guidance to each other.

Women in business
Nicole Sykes; Head: Women in Business Niche, FNB Business

For women who do recognise the value of networking, there are a number of basic rules of thumb regarding how to derive the maximum professional benefit and business-building advantages of networking opportunities. The most important of these are as follows:

  • Be intentional – It’s crucial for women to approach networking with a clear strategic intent. This means being intentional about who they connect with, the types of events they attend, and the goals they hope to achieve through networking. Networking should never just be about socialising; it should be about building genuine relationships that can offer real value to their business or personal lives.
  • Be prepared – Before attending an event, do your research on the attendees and prepare some questions or conversation starters. This will help you make a strong first impression and facilitate meaningful conversations.
  • Be authentic – the best way to build valuable relationships with other business women it to simply be yourself and let your personality (and even your flaws) shine through. You don’t need to be a titan of industry or an instantly recognisable thought leader in order to get the most out of networking. Authenticity builds trust and enables you to foster meaningful connections.
  • Offer value – Be willing to help others, offer support and advice, and make connections where appropriate. This will help build relationships and establish you as a valuable contact.
  • Attend regularly – Regular attendance at networking events helps you build a network of contacts, establish credibility, and keep up-to-date with industry trends and news.
  • Follow up – After meeting someone, don’t be shy to follow up with them, and maintain the relationship over time. It’s essential to nurture relationships to build trust and credibility.

As women in business, there are still so many barriers and hurdles that we need to overcome in order to achieve the leadership roles we deserve. Networking is a powerful collaborative tool to enable us to get over those hurdles together, but to unlock the full value of networking many of us need to change our perceptions and shift our mindsets. And when we do, the full power of networking will quickly be revealed in our businesses and our careers.

By Nicole Sykes; Head: Women in Business Niche, FNB Business

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