Business & Professional Women Advance Through Networking

By Lois Phillips, PhD *

The number of women and men in the labor force has nearly equalized in recent years, according to "Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being," the first comprehensive White House report on women since 1963. More young women than men are likely to have a college or graduate degree. And, as women's work has increased, their earnings constitute a growing share of family income. Contrary to what we might expect, however, we learn that gains have not yet translated into wage and income parity. At all levels of education and despite cultural advances, women earned about 75 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2009. Why aren't women advancing?

Marissa Mayer, a top executive with Google, commented recently on how few women enter the technology industry, probably because they see few women there but also, women tend to lack confidence in their quantitative abilities, and attract less funding for their firms than men do. From research by Catalyst.org, sourced in an article on womensenews.org, we learn that women in business suffer from a lack of female role models; a perception that business jobs are incompatible with family responsibilities; a tendency to be intimidated by quantitative requirements; and a lack of encouragement by their employers and then, too, math anxiety could play a role.

Women's networks provide a solution to the need to learn, to compete and to advance in what remains primarily a 'man's world,' even in 2011 (at least in business). There are those burning questions we might have after hearing a lecture but swallow during the Q&A after a professional lecture, wanting to avoid feeling naive in a larger, public venue. It's much easier to share concerns across a lunch table with a friendly face. We might want to know:

• Where can I find a trustworthy accountant?
• How do I set up a retainer relationship with my new client?
• Have you ever experienced a 'double bind' situation (with a client, colleague, or customer) in which you feel you just can't win?

Santa Barbara women have some good options for using networks to advance themselves and their companies; for instance, The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) wants to strengthen member's wealth-creating capacity and promote economic development within the entrepreneurial community. Maeda Palius, CPA and President of NAWBO-Santa Barbara observed that business-owners are very open to helping one another, even though the women may be competitors. In a recent poll, many members have done business with more than three NAWBO members.

President of Santa Barbara Women Lawyers (SBWL), Attorney Brandi Redman believes that the mutual support of their association has changed the legal community. She mentioned the advances their members have made into judgeships and court commissioners; out of approximately 22 Santa Barbara Superior Court judicial officers, women now hold seven positions, which is around 30 percent." Morale support, encouragement, guidance, and mentoring have all contributed to the lawyers' success.

As readers of this newsletter already or should know, The Association for Women in Communication (AWC-SB) provides role models, experts in the field, mentoring, and the opportunity to attend AWC's national conference. AWCSB members have bartered or contracted with one another for services, collaborated on joint ventures, and gained information and insights from expert speakers and panels.

Networking is a serious social endeavor. There is the delight of meeting a person with common interests, lively conversations with hilarious anecdotes and "You won't believe this!" stories that will keep a smile on your face through the rest of the week. There is no way that "a man will take over the conversation," so if you don't get your two cents in, you'll have only yourself to blame, but there will always be next month's program. Extend AWCSB's outreach to include your colleagues, friends, and any woman in a communications role.

* This article is adapted from "Networking is key to beating the old boy's club." written by Lois Phillips, PacBizTimes, March 25, 2011. Read more of Lois Phillips' commentary on www.womenseenandheard.wordpress.com

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