The Networking Gap Hurting Women's Professional Growth

The Networking Gap Hurting Women's Professional Growth

By: Rachita Sharma, Managing Editor | Thursday, 20 July 2023

The contemporary corporate world is no lone fighter’s playground. Business leaders and entrepreneurs usually face challenges owing to being ‘lonely at the top’ syndrome. But this feeling is resonated in professionals at all stages of their careers. Business leaders require a network and support system to grow through every stage of the business cycle. Networking plays a key role in both the early and established phases of a business leader’s journey.

However, there exists a phenomenon called the network gap. Although it is a rarely discussed challenge, yet it impacts professionals immensely.

Professionals with a weaker network have less access to job opportunities. It also adversely impacts organizations as the end up missing out on talented and well-suited candidates who lack the right connections. 

Although the issue impacts all professionals yet it has a disproportionate impact on women’s growth and holds them back.

New research by LinkedIn has found that women in the U.S. are 28 percent less likely to have a strong network as compared to men. This is not a localized issue and the aforementioned “gender network gap” is prevalent across all countries.

Even when women create networks, unfortunately they are often less powerful than the networks created by their male counterparts. Several studies have highlighted this challenge and delved deep to study what causes women’s networks to not be as high power as men’s networks.

The first factor according to research is that women often tend to fraternize with peers or lower-level employees. They do not reach out to network with the more powerful or senior employee. Rather than understanding how a network member can aid them in advancing their career, women tend to focus more on the social aspect of networking, which doesn’t necessarily help them with their connections.

It has also been found that women tend to lack confidence regarding the contribution of their network. Successful women senior executives were found to be hesitant to network since they were not confident about their own abilities. Plagued by self-doubt women tend to devalue their contributions to their networks.

Surprisingly, women also see networking as exploitative and feel uncomfortable about it. They look at networking as a disingenuous. Women prefer to build networks based on personal relationships and do not focus on networking in order to help their careers.

Societal systems and gender stereotypes also do not help much. Women are still the primary care givers to children and ailing family members. They are also still expected to do a majority of home-keeping jobs, despite having full-time employment. Networking is something that requires time and effort. Women are often embroiled in taking care of their familial responsibilities and do not find the time to invest in cultivating networks.

These are some of the primary reasons why women’s networks have not yet been able to become as lucrative as men’s networks. Yet, not all is lost.

Although women fall behind when it comes to networking, yet they are also more likely to do something about addressing this gap. LinkedIn’s data revealed that women are 32 percent more likely to opt for courses related to networking on the professional networking platform’s learning arm.

So, women of the world, go out, network, feel confident and find the success that you deserve!