It is not breaking news; women struggle to find equality in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2020, women made 82 cents for every dollar a man earned. The pandemic only added to this disparity, with more women leaving the workforce and taking on caretaker roles for children and elderly relatives (McCann, 2023). For those women who were fortunate enough to work from home, many felt challenged by the pressures of home life encroaching into their work life. It can be hard to focus on that Zoom meeting with the dog and that pile of laundry staring at you. Societal pressures may also make it more likely for women to stay home with the children rather than men. With all of these challenges in mind, it is important for women leaders and employees to build a network of mentors, coaches, and peers who support their success!
Building your workplace network is not only enjoyable but there are many benefits that can make your career path a little easier to navigate.
- Confidence: Having a trusted coach or mentor that you can bounce ideas off of and receive confirmation that you are on the right track can be a real confidence booster. Unfortunately we women leaders often sell ourselves short and fail to give ourselves credit where credit is due. Having that outside perspective can help you recognize and celebrate good work that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
- Courage: So often, others can see our potential before we can. When we are doubting ourselves, having someone in our network who believes in us may be just the catalyst we need to take the next big leap in our life. A mentor, coach, or work associate can help us unwind from the stories of self-doubt that we are silently telling ourselves – the stories that are holding us back. They can help us find our inner light and remind us that we really do have what it takes to make it.
- Connection: Building your network can give you the opportunity to tap into women who have gone before you, who have been there and done that. Surrounding yourself with people who you can learn from can open your options to new ways of doing things. As your network grows so do your opportunities. Attend a conference, join a mastermind group, or take a class. Put yourself out there and see what comes your way.
- Guidance: Co-workers can be good supporters but they may also have their own personal biases that influence how they respond to you and support you. Consider the value of an unbiased coach who is not there to convince you of anything but rather help you uncover what you really want simply by asking questions that support you in thinking differently.
So now that we know the advantages, how do we navigate building our network? Of course, you want people you get along with and feel comfortable sharing challenges with. However, you also want to think through how to strategically build your network with people who challenge you to think differently. Looking at your strengths and weaknesses is a good place to start when assessing who you need around you for support. Try finding someone who brings the talents and experience that you don’t. Their unique lens will challenge your thinking and offer you fresh perspectives. We need that different lens in order to grow. Look for people who have been through what you are going through. Their life experience may be just the practical advice you need. Good coaches and mentors will not try to convince you to be more like them. Their job is to help you be the best version of yourself.
Don’t wait until you are in desperate need of support. Strong networks are built over time. Make the effort to find the best mentor and coach for you. Start now to build a strong and diverse network that includes a variety of professionals because building your network before you need it, leads to better outcomes in the long run.
McCann, M. (2023). Why 2023 Has to Be the Year of Women in the Workplace. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2023/01/26/why-2023-has-to-be-the-year-of-women-in-the-workplace/?sh=3e1b86455882