The Times Online from the UK, published an article in March called Why Women are Such Bad Networkers.

It’s no good thinking that hard work will get you anywhere. If you want to make it to the top, you’re going to have to overcome your fear of socializing and start schmoozing like men.

Of course, this caught my attention! Is this really true? Is it valid that women have a fear of socializing? Is it a valid point that women don’t schmooze like men? The implication is that men are better at building the social capital to advance their careers.

Let’s take one point at a time. I do believe that many women still feel that working hard is the best way to get ahead. Working hard yet being invisible in your company will not get you anywhere. While you are toiling away in your office long hours, men are working smarter by building social capital within the organization. Though this is a generalization, men do tend to be more visible. They promote themselves better than women. They take credit for their accomplishments and let other know the value that they bring; all this along with doing the tasks at hand. I’ve heard countless stories of women passed over for promotions due to a lack of visibility.

Lesson learned: Consciously put time aside to perform activities in your organization that will bring you more credibility and visibility. As an example, do you always work through lunch? Set aside at least one day a week to set up a lunch with a colleague. Be strategic about who you invite to lunch and widen your circle; increase your web of influence.

Next point: women are fearful of socializing. I do not believe this is true. Women love to socialize and, in fact, excel at building relationships. So what does the author of this article mean? I think the point is that women socialize differently than men. When it comes to building social capital to advance their careers, men are more direct.

In the article, Liz Cable, a social media expert, says,

I think when women hear the phrase  ‘social network’, they hear social. Men hear network….Women are not promoting themselves in the right way. Many of them are slipping under the radar because they are afraid of people they don’t know saying no, either in person or online. Men don’t worry so much about rejection – they just go for it.

Despite 84 percent of users on the main social networking sites being  female…twice as many men as women are likely to approach an unknown contact from an online network for business purposes’

Interesting statistic. Do you believe this is true? I’m not sure where the facts come from, but the point is still a good one.

Lesson learned: Widen your social circle online as well as in person. Make it a point to be more strategic about your online connections and contact people who will be able to build your business or increase your visibility in some fashion. It’s nice to accept invitations from others to connect online, but you can also be in control of who is in your network. Everyone who wants to be your “friend” online, may not be your best choice of a network contact. Do your own searches. Request introductions. Take the time to strategically build your network. Don’t leave it to chance.

I personally do not believe that women fear socializing. I just had the opportunity last week to do a presentation at the eWomen’s Network Boston Metro West chapter. Many of these networking organizations are now taking a different approach to the meetings in that they are facilitating networking by structuring activities that force women to connect, introduce themselves, and ask for what they need from others. I think this is great practice for women and I wondered to myself as I was participating in this exercise, if the dynamics of the meeting might change if men were present.

The author of the Times article expresses her point of view on women’s networking events,

In a business world still dominated by men, networking solely with other women is not much use.

There are many networking opportunities for women. For women who need practice promoting themselves and pitching their businesses, this is great. If your target audience is women, this is a great venue. However, I think we, as women, need to be more strategic with in person networking as well.

Lesson learned: Expand your networking events to include those events that have both men and women to build the social capital you need to advance your career and build your business. Be visible in your community through charity events. Volunteer to manage committees or projects at work that will help you stand out and then, of course, take the credit when you are successful.

Women are great at socializing but I think we need to be more strategic about how we network, who we include in our social networks, and how to promote ourselves to create the credibility and visibility we are need to advance our careers and build our businesses.

I would love to hear your thoughts on women and networking. Are we good at it?