Bloomberg TV screencapThis post originally appeared on LinkedIn. Follow Sallie on LinkedIn
I am investing in 85 Broads, the 30,000-strong professional women’s network founded by the well-before-her-time Janet Hanson.
For most of my career, I tried to avoid the topic of being a woman in business, vaguely concerned that talking too much about it would hold me back in some way. My standard response: “Oh gosh, I never really think about being a woman in business. I’m just focused on getting the job done.”
But I’ve been thinking about it over the past year…..a lot.
And it’s not just because of the fairness issue, important though that is. It’s because the research and business case for the economic advancement of women is so compelling, in a world deeply in need of greater economic prosperity.
This holds at the country level, where the increased participation of women moderates the political process and paves the way for a healthier economy. And it is true at the business level, where companies with greater diversity in senior management have higher returns, lower volatility, more innovation, greater customer focus, better stockholder returns and lower gender pay disparity.
Despite this, the progress of women in business has plateaued. And while there has been a renewal of the national discussion on how to break this logjam, if the answer were one-dimensional, the challenge would already have been solved. The answer can be as unique to every woman as her own definition of personal and professional success.
And that leads to “why a professional women’s network.” Networks are beginning to operate alongside the traditional corporate structure, serving as a modern means for individuals to come together to exchange ideas and information. They enable their members to contribute to, and pull from, the network to accomplish more than the sum of the parts would indicate.
Powerful connections can increasingly be made outside the C-suites, boardrooms and private clubs. The women of 85 Broads engage with one another at events and on topics such as how to establish a personal brand, how to negotiate more successfully, how to get a book published, how to make effective sales presentations, how to be a better boss, how to be more effective at social media, how to improve executive presence, how to increase resilience, how to prepare for public service, how to improve one’s chance of getting on a board…..you get the point….
In doing this, networking has been shown to increase professional success: research shows that one of the “unwritten rules” of advancement in business has been a strong network.…both inside one’s workplace and, very powerfully, outside as well. Don’t think of these as tired “support groups;” they are instead platforms for the exchange and promotion of information and ideas, accelerating one’s acquisition of skills and knowledge. Doing so outside of one’s company exposes one to different thinking, which can be important in avoiding “group think.” These benefits hold for individuals in a more traditional corporate setting, while entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks have been shown to grow their businesses more quickly.
The next step is to move from advocacy to real investments in women, just as smart companies – and smart investors – are increasingly recognising.
I am becoming involved with and investing in 85 Broads because investing in women is smart business. And women investing in themselves and in others, as they do through the network, is even smarter business.
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