A recent study revealed that apart from structural exclusion, it’s also women’s self-doubt and underestimation of self-worth that prevents them from networking as effectively as men. The study, published by SAGE Publishing in the journal Human Relations, is based on an interview study of high-profile female leaders working in large corporations.
- Looking at the structural view of networking, it is evidently proven that networking offers less utility for women. A reaserch found that that participation in networking behaviour offered more benefit for the career progress of men than of women.
- The study found that women build less effective networks with less influential and powerful contacts. This effectiveness largely arises because women face a structural disadvantage. The entire system, for as long as one can remember, has been designed keeping men in mind.
- Another key takeaway is that the existence of structural barriers also arise from the homophily theory (internal preference). Also, the work-family conflict is another phenomenon which makes women’s networking efforts rather difficult.
- Gender inequality at the workplace is another major factor that has women at the receiving end of everything that is wrong with patriarchy.
- The study showed that the informal social circles of powerful men often exclude women’s valuable participation. This, eventually leads to women having a disadvantaged when it comes to receiving influential mentoring, social support, or promotions.
Self-imposed barriers: Self-doubt and underestimating self-worth
- Another worrisome finding from the study is that self-imposed barriers like hesitation and self-doubt are crucial factors that keep women behind.
The study noted that women also underestimate their worth in discussions on salary and promotions. They tend to doubt the potential value of their contributions. This, the research revealed, comes from the already defined unequal gender roles.
- The research showed that the tendency of women to harbour moral concerns “about exploiting social ties causes them to under-benefit from networking activities”. This ‘gendered modesty at the workplace’ somehow pushes women at a disadvantage.
Discussing about personal hesitation, one interviewee shared: “Women look at networks from a social point of view. They do not ask the question “How will this benefit me?” Men, on the other hand, focus on the opposite, placing less emphasis on personal relationships and make networking decisions for egoistic and instrumental motives.”
This study’s findings not only reveals a gender bias that’s prevailing since ages, but also the system that’s made women question their ability and understate themselves time and again. Leaders at the workplace must shoulder the responsibility to dismantle this system. Professional networks must motive women so they can scrutinise their positioning in building powerful social contacts.
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