I got a rare opportunity to see how women network recently, when Penny Marsden-Booth addressed a Women in Business event.
There are lots of women-only networking groups and I’d always been intrigued by what the difference from mixed events might be. (As far as men-only networking goes, for me it’s called ‘going for a beer’.)
I was there to take a few photos and help carry equipment, so I had no active role in the networking, I was just ‘in the background’. Here’s what I noticed that was markedly different from mixed-gender networking events.
- As they arrived, the attendees chose to sit at some tables and form groups. Men would have hung back, remained standing, and kept their options open about who they would talk to.
- Animated conversations began very quickly. Some of the attendees knew each other, but those links were very much in a minority. There was still a noticeable lack of ‘reserve’ and ‘caution’.
- There was a lot of smiling, laughing and head-nodding. The behaviour seemed very empathetic. People leaned forward into the conversations.
- I didn’t see a single exchange of business cards until the very end of the event – done almost as an afterthought.
This was certainly effective networking, and it made me wish that women felt more comfortable in bringing some of their natural style into mixed events. The men would welcome it, and learn from them, just as I did.
I wonder what you have experienced, when the majority of the people you’re networking with are either mostly your gender, or mostly not? Let me know in the comments.