Strategic Network Building for Women & Initiatives
While people differ on how they build and use their networks, for women in male-dominated sectors, a strong network can make the difference in feeling supported and promoting women’s visibility. This toolkit not only provides tips on strategic network building for women but also for women-led initiatives on how to build synergies and collaborations.
Network Building for
Developing a strong strategic network can be particularly challenging for women, especially for those in male-dominated sectors. Networks enable you to get ahead in your career and to make an impact. Check out our 8 tips below:
01 Assess your current network structure
Operational and personal networks are great but it is ‘strategic’ relationships that help advance your goals. The best strategic networks are broad and diverse, they’re connective across groups and dynamic.
top tip : Keep in mind what your needs are when doing this exercise e.g. if you need funding for a project, do you know someone with fundraising expertise? Pay attention to gaps within your network!
02 Active engagement
Prioritise and invest in a few activities – whether that’s joining a professional women’s network, attending informal ‘meet-ups’ or volunteering for a project – find a space where you’ll meet like-minded women who are not necessarily your ‘inner circle’.
top tip : Think about mutually beneficial relationships when networking and be a ‘connector’ between your contacts.
03 Preparation is key
Whether you’re attending a high-level conference or networking drinks, make sure that your ‘elevator pitch’ is clear and concise but defines your professional identity, expertise and goals.
top tip : Make sure to bring business cards!
04 Get online
Twitter and Linkedin are the ‘online’ places to be for professional profile building. Join ‘Twitter Lists’ and ‘Linkedin Groups’ to connect with women in your field.
top tip : Amplify the work of women in your network online and be sure to tag them.
05 Get mentoring
Connect with a senior positioned woman as their mentorship will not only help you excel in your career but it will form the foundation of the kind of valuable professional network that you and ultimately all the women within your organisation and network will benefit from.
06 Pay it forward
Mentor younger women as this builds their networks, giving them access to opportunities and promotes continuous gender diversity within organisations and sectors.
07 Don’t hesitate to brag!
Women have the tendency to underplay their achievements and expertise, so share the incredible things you’re doing – whether that’s online, at work or at events.
08 Don’t be afraid to ask
Get over the fear of appearing ‘needy’ or ‘bothersome’ and just ask for what it is you need from your contact, whether it is an introduction, an event invitation, a project proposal, etc. don’t let worry prevent you from asking.
top tip : Good rule of thumb is to never ask for something that you wouldn’t be willing to give back in return.
There are many initiatives that aim to promote women’s visibility in spaces where they are not traditionally present. Network building to foster synergy, collaboration and partnerships can bring many benefits for women-led organisations. Check out our 8 tips below:
01 Stakeholder mapping
Assess your existing ‘strategic’ network but go further by researching and compiling like-minded organisations. Evaluate whether they have a high or low-level interest in your initiative’s mission and vision.
top tip : Use a cloud-based spreadsheet that can be regularly updated and shared.
02 Diversity matters
Don’t limit your network to a specific region or sector as diverse networks are very important for expanding circles of influence and achieving equitable results.
top tip : Don’t neglect your ‘centered space’ though while doing this, initiatives perform better when they’ve strong local support networks.
03 Events make the difference
Whether you’re hosting an event or attending one, they’re a great way to build up your initiative’s profile and to make connections with like-minded organisations for future partnerships.
top tip : When speaking at an event, give visibility to other initiatives by mentioning the work they’re doing – this gives legitimacy to your common mission.
04 Connect and engage online
Online networking is critical to building relationships and credibility, and social media allows you to provide value for your connections and followers.
top tip : Assess your initiative’s capacity and develop a social media strategy based on it. Make sure to allocate some time to actively engage with followers.
05 Promote each other
Whether it is an official partnership or just being allies that share each other’s online content, give visibility on your channels to those who support your initiative’s mission.
06 Peer learning
Peer-to-peer learning exchanges are valuable spaces for sharing best practices, experiences, challenges and solutions with other women-led initiatives in formal or informal meetings.
top tip : If physical meetings are not possible, try organising webinars. There are many low costing and free services that can host online meetings.
07 Building synergies
Go beyond networking by building synergic relationships with like-minded organisations. This is particularly useful for low-capacity initiatives as leveraging complementary activities will yield higher impact.
08 Use your hook for partnerships
Connect with businesses and other stakeholders to make the case for gender equality based on their positioning in their industry and society as a whole. It can lead to sponsorships for your initiative’s projects and events.
top tip : Having one big partner on board can attract others in the same industry and beyond.
References and further readings
- Anna Isabel Becker (The Brussels Binder, Belgium)
- Paola Garbini (Boston Consulting Group, Italy)
- Martina Šinkovičová (GLOBSEC, Slovakia)
- Stella Kasdagli (Women on Top, Greece)
- Elena Stavrevska (Women Also Know Balkans, North Macedonia)
- Juliane Schmid (The Brussels Binder, Belgium)
Emma Rainey (The Brussels Binder, Belgium)
Dive into the toolkits
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This toolkit provides practical advice strategic network building for women but also for women-led initiatives on how to build synergies and collaborations.
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