Working Woman's Guide to ... Networking

Welcome to our mini training series where we’ve talked about dealing with our inner critic, fear, accessing our Courage and practical tips around self promotion.

This month's Guide is about Networking.

Our networks play a critical role in our career progression by:

·         Giving us acess to jobs

·         Opening up development opportunities

·         Shaping our reputation

·         Regulating our access to information

Nurturing our networks is one of the KEY sets of skills for women (alongside Self Promotion) for having more influence and impact, and to progress (if that’s what you want). Our networks also effect our levels of pay.

Our networks include 3 key roles – mentors, sponsors and role models – mentors, sponsors and role models. There are significant differences in how these roles play out for men and women, and these differences influence progression and our pay. 

1. Mentors 

Mentors are more senior and experienced people who give us advice and act as a sounding board. Women are more likely to be mentored than men;    however, women’s mentors tend to be more junior. When it comes to career progression, mentor seniority matters. Senior mentors have more organisational influence and can open doors in a way that more junior mentors can’t. 

When it comes to designing mentoring programmes for women, formal programmes deliver the best results. Women who are matched with a mentor through a formal programme are 50% more likely to receive a promotion than women who find a mentor informally.  

Formal mentoring programmes bypass the discomfort that many senior white men have around reaching out to more junior white, and black and ethnic minority, women (who don’t always feel comfortable asking to be mentored by senior men). 

Creating reciprocal mentoring programmes can be a powerful way to expose female talent to senior male leaders and help the leaders understand how bias plays out for women in their organisation. This reciprocal learning process is deepened by providing mentors with gender bias awareness training and encouraging them to practise gender-aware mentoring.

Questions for you: Do you have a mentor? Does your organisation run a formal mentoring scheme?

2. Sponsors 

Sponsors are powerful senior allies who make us visible to others, advocate for us and offer political protection that makes it safer to take risks. Sponsors play a critical role in helping us progress our careers. Women are less likely than men to be sponsored.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett sums it up perfectly when she says that “to get ahead, women need to acquire a sponsor – as a powerfully positioned champion – to help them escape the ‘marzipan layer,’ that sticky middle slice of management where so many driven and talented women languish”. 

Building sponsorship is trickier than gaining a mentor – you can’t be assigned sponsorship; you need to build it.

Two things get in the way of women building sponsorship. First, as humans we are naturally attracted to people who are like us. If the top tiers of an organisation are populated by white men, then they will be naturally drawn to other white men. Second, to achieve sponsorship the protégé first has to be noticed, and this often involves self-promotion. Women are penalised for demonstrating self-promoting behaviours that are seen as acceptable for a man; and as a result women self-promote less. 

Questions for you: Do you have a sponsor? How do you know? How can you cultivate one?

3. Finally, role models.

Role models are senior people who do things in a way that we’d like to. They help us create a vision for our future leadership and encourage us to experiment with doing things differently. 

There are fewer senior women, and even fewer senior women of colour. Women therefore have fewer role models. Backward-looking models of leadership also mean that there are fewer women leaders who have succeeded based on authentic feminine forms of leadership – reducing the field of role models even further.

Questions for you: Who are your role models? Who do you admire? What aspects of different people’s leadership do you admire and wish to emulate?


Recommendations for your organisation:

·      Create formal mentoring schemes that match senior men with emerging white and ethnic minority women. 

·      Provide gender bias training to mentors to help them refine their own mentoring practice and deepen their awareness of how multiple forms of bias may be impacting their mentee.

·      Run self-promotion training for women to raise awareness of gender difference in attitudes to self-promotion, and to provide tools and techniques to support women in effective self-promotion.  

·      Encourage leaders to do a diversity check on who they are sponsoring, to explore the reasons for any patterns and how these patterns could be disrupted. 

·      Create a women’s network (one that’s open to men) to allow greater internal and external exposure to role models. 



Self promotion and networking are two of the key levers for having more influence and impact and also progression (if that’s what you want) – if you want to find out what are the other key drivers are the go HERE to sign up for Catalyst Collective's ‘Gender Pay Gap – What Next?’ report (it also includes a whole section on networking)  - sign up to receive that HERE

Eleanor Beaton's Fierce Feminine Leadership podcast

Catalyst Collective Conversation on role models HERE and HERE


We are creating our next program for senior/ emerging female leaders, would you like to help us shape it?

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‘Confidence Cocktail’ is our powerful online program to equip busy professional women to close your confidence gap so you can lead at your best. We do the deep work with your inner critic and your inner mentor, and we resource you with practical strategies to deal with fear, rumination and increase your self-compassion. It’s incredibly powerful stuff and our participants experience break-through results. The program is all online, including video-based modules to access at your own pace and location, and we can add some live calls direct with Katy and Fi if you would like that element too. We offer group pricing for in-house groups. You can find out more HERE.


Each month we’re picking the juiciest topics, which come up again and again in our coaching with 100s of senior women, and we’re sharing powerful, tried-and-tested insights that will change your leadership and your life. So stay tuned!

Dealing with our inner critic, doubt and fear; imposter syndrome; getting more visible even when you hate networking; navigating systemic bias; authentic self-promotion; comparing, competing and collaborating with other women; ally-ship and role modelling.

These are all key pieces we teach on our women’s leadership programs that deliver awesome results. So if you follow along through the year it’s a free mini-training series with us. Be sure to join our community HERE to be the first to receive these free resources. You’ll also join our community which means being the first to hear about our future programs, receive monthly tips, exclusive content and resources straight to your inbox.


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