Role of Networking in Women's Entrepreneurial Success

Role of Networking in Women's Entrepreneurial Success

By: Sowmya Moni, Vice President, Marketing & Alliances, Incture

Sowmya Moni, with over 23 years of experience in B2B technology marketing, Sowmya has developed expertise in go-to-market strategy, marketing, and communications. She has successfully established technology alliances, partner programs, and operations for mid-size tech companies.

In a conversation with Women Entrepreneur Magazine, Sowmya Moni, Vice President, Marketing & Alliances at Incture Technologies, shared her views and thoughts on the key factors that make a networking event or platform conducive to the success of women entrepreneurs, as well as the most influential networking platforms or events for women entrepreneurs.

How can we measure the effectiveness of networking initiatives aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs? What key performance indicators would be prioritized to evaluate success?

Measuring the effectiveness of networking initiatives aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs involves a multi-faceted approach. Key performance indicators (KPIs) need to be defined and tracked to evaluate the success of these initiatives. Here are some of the KPIs and methods that can be used:

Participation Rate: This is a basic but important indicator. It measures how many women entrepreneurs are actively participating in the networking initiatives. A high participation rate indicates that the initiative is accessible and appealing to its target audience. For example, if you host a monthly networking event, you could track the number of women entrepreneurs who attend each month. This could be measured by the number of registrations or sign-ins at each event

Retention Rate: These measure how many women continue to participate in the initiative over time. High retention rates suggest that the participants are finding value in the initiative.

Satisfaction Rate: This involves collecting and analyzing feedback from participants about their experiences, what they learned, and how they've applied what they've learned in their businesses. High satisfaction rates and positive feedback are indicators of success.

Entrepreneurial Success Measures: This includes tracking business-related outcomes for participants, such as increased revenue, new business partnerships, or funding secured. These are direct measures of how the initiative is contributing to the success of women entrepreneurs.

Skill Development: This can be measured by assessing the improvement in skills that are critical for entrepreneurship, such as leadership, negotiation, business planning, etc. Surveys or assessments can be used to measure skill development. If your initiative includes a training component, you could administer pre-and post-training assessments to measure improvements in key skills such as financial literacy or strategic planning.

Mentorship Connections: Measure the number of mentorship connections established and the quality of these relationships. This could be evaluated through feedback from both mentors and mentees.

Remember that these KPIs should be tailored to align with the specific objectives of your networking initiative. Regularly reviewing and adjusting your KPIs is also important to ensure they remain relevant as your initiative evolves.

In your opinion, what are the key factors that make a networking event or platform conducive to the success of women entrepreneurs?

In India, there is a significant funding gap for women-led startups. Only 0.3% of venture capital funding went to women-led startups in 2022. Networking events that provide opportunities to pitch to investors, learn about alternative funding sources like crowdfunding, or understand how to navigate this funding gap can be particularly impactful. Drawing from my own experience and insights from various sources let me share some of these factors:

Access to Resources: Women entrepreneurs often face challenges in accessing financial resources and capital. Therefore, a networking event or platform that provides information about funding opportunities, grants, and loans can be extremely beneficial.

Mentorship and Guidance: Mentorship plays a crucial role in entrepreneurial success. Networking events that facilitate connections with experienced entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and mentors can provide invaluable guidance and support. Organizations such as Women in Big Data, Women on Boards, and Diversify are giving platforms to women to connect with mentors and leaders. They identify, train, and recommend highly qualified women leaders to Boards and C-Suite positions of companies globally.

Skill Development: Workshops or sessions focused on skill development are essential. These could range from technical skills to business management, financial literacy, and leadership skills. Such sessions equip women entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools required to navigate the business landscape. Future Skills Prime - India’s Technology Skilling Hub is a joint initiative by NASSCOM & MeitY, is an innovative and evolutionary ecosystem designed to equip learners with cutting-edge skills essential in today's rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Opportunities for Collaboration: Networking events should foster an environment that encourages collaboration. This could lead to partnerships, joint ventures, or simply the exchange of ideas that could benefit businesses. Events run by organizations such as HerKey provide opportunities for collaboration.

Inclusive Environment: The event or platform should be inclusive and respectful of all participants, irrespective of their background or the stage of their business. This fosters a sense of belonging and encourages active participation.

While networking events and platforms present great opportunities for women entrepreneurs, their effectiveness largely depends on how well they address the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in India. Addressing these key factors can significantly enhance the value and impact of such initiatives.

How can we plan to ensure inclusivity and diversity within the networking initiatives to support women entrepreneurs from various backgrounds and industries?

Planning for inclusivity and diversity in networking initiatives for women entrepreneurs involves a proactive and thoughtful approach. To attract a diverse group of women entrepreneurs, outreach efforts should target various industries, backgrounds, and regions. This might involve partnering with different industry associations, community organizations, and entrepreneurship programs to spread the word about your initiative, accessible to everyone. This could mean offering both in-person and virtual options for participation, providing materials in multiple languages, or ensuring physical venues are accessible to people with disabilities. Use of inclusive language in all communications and promotional materials. In India, where there are over 15.7 million women-owned enterprises and women are driving the start-up ecosystem, women's entrepreneurship is gaining ground. It is anticipated that during the next five years, this number will rise by 90%. The Indian government has introduced several programs to assist female entrepreneurs in response to these difficulties.

In your opinion, what are the most influential networking platforms or events for women entrepreneurs, and how can we strategically leverage them to benefit the organization?

In my opinion, there are several influential networking platforms and events that can significantly benefit women entrepreneurs. While not exclusively for women, LinkedIn is a powerful platform for professional networking. It's a space where you can connect with industry leaders, join groups relevant to your field, share your insights, and learn from others. Women's business networking groups often organize face-to-face interactions and networking events, which can lead to more meaningful connections and opportunities. To strategically leverage these platforms and events to benefit your organization, consider the following strategies:

Prioritize Networking: Make networking a priority. It might be challenging and sometimes awkward, but the benefits it brings to your organization are enormous.

Active Participation: Engage actively on these platforms. Share your insights, comment on others' posts, ask questions, and participate in discussions.

Build Relationships: Networking is not just about making contacts; it's about building relationships. Invest time in nurturing these relationships.

Leverage Resources: Platforms like Funding Circle provide a range of resources. Make sure you utilize these to benefit your organization.

Face-to-Face Networking: While online networking is important, face-to-face interactions often lead to stronger connections. Participate in events organized by women's business networking groups.

By doing so, you'll be able to build a strong network that can provide support, advice, and opportunities for your organization.