Women of course! I already hear your cries of disbelief and I know some of you are asking, “Did she really say that? Out loud?” It’s one thing to think it, it’s an entirely different thing to make such a bold statement – and in a blog that’s seen by tens of thousands of people! Yet, it may very well be true. The dictionary even alludes to it being true. I’ll tell you what it said in a minute.
The question isn’t really whether men or women networking are better than one another because of their gender; the question is what type of networking are you doing?
- Are you an old school networker who attends business networking events with the singular focus of moving yourself up?
- Are you someone who, when asked your name, you hand out your business card to answer for you?
- Are you strictly business, telling people what you do, finding out what their business is and then moving on?
If that’s you, that’s an old style of networking and it does work. (Be sure to check out Networking Face to Face for Women Entrepreneurs.) To a degree…
Today business networking for men and women is different. It’s not about me, me, me.
The infamous Zig Ziglar said it best, “You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.”
The person with this philosophy is attending business networking events with the singular focus of creating and nurturing relationships. When that person is asked their name, they warmly offer their hand, make comfortable eye contact, smile broadly and answer with their first and last name. They follow that up with, “And yours?” The question about what you do isn’t even asked because the conversation allows for conversation which eventually gets there. The conversation is about “who you are” instead of “what you do.”
That’s what 21st century networking is all about. You’ve heard the phrase “Relational Capital.” Relational capital is defined by Wikipedia as, “all relationships – market relationships, power relationships and cooperation – established between firms, institutions and people, which stem from a strong sense of belonging and a highly developed capacity of cooperation.” Relational capital is what you create when you focus on “helping other people get what they want.” 21st century networking is about relationships where everyone achieves success through cooperation and connection.
Am I saying that women are better at that than men? Well, it’s believed that women generally are relationship oriented while men are generally task or transaction focused. Notice I said “generally.” Whether you’re a man or a woman you can create relational capital by building relationships and as WPN founder Nancy Matthews says, “by treating each person you meet as if they are “The One.”
So what does the dictionary say about men networking and women networking and who’s better at it? If we agree that 21st century networking builds relational capital, you pick which of these definitions applies:
- to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position: His business lunches were taken up with networking. — OR —
- a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest: Working mothers in the community use networking to help manage successfully.
If you’re thinking #2 defines 21st networking, then perhaps women are better at networking than men. Look closely, Dictionary.com’s reference in definition #1 is male, and in #2 it’s female. Hmm… do they think women are better at networking than men are? I don’t know, but hey, if it’s in the dictionary AND it’s online it must be true right?