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6 female leaders share their top networking tips for women

·7-min read
(Source: Supplied)
(Source: Supplied)

When it comes to achieving equality in the workplace, there’s still a long way to go.

In fact, female CEOs will have to wait another 80 years to achieve equal representation with men, and according to the World Economic Forum the global gender gap will take 99.5 years to close.

So in light of International Women’s Day, which falls on Sunday 8 March this year, Yahoo Finance asked six female executives to share their tip tips to help other women inch up the corporate latter.

Here’s what they said.

Start with the people around you

Shaneez Johnston, Head of Corporate Affairs and Social Media at Samsung

The thought of networking can seem quite intimidating when you’re starting out. It helps to remember that any relationship or contact is a networking opportunity. Start small with the people around you, often you’ll find they’re invaluable to your growth and success.

They usually know a lot about the industry you’re in and can open other doors for you. The more you network, the more your confidence will grow and before you know it you’ll have a wide ranging web of people and businesses, who are willing to support you in your career journey.

If you’re wondering what to say when networking, I always suggest being prepared. Take some time before key events and opportunities to prepare conversation points about yourself or topics relevant to the person. You will be much more likely to broach a conversation with someone you want in your network if you have talking points top of mind.

Be in a workplace that recognises you

Anna Pomroy, senior engineer at PayPal

Working in the technology sector, I am often one of very few women in a room full of men. I’ve learnt that while gender stereotyping might still exist in the technology industry, my competency to do the job is what matters most.

In a previous role, a male peer was promoted, and it was unclear why I also didn’t receive a promotion, as I had the skills needed for it. When I raised this with HR and my boss, I was told I didn’t smile enough – something my male peers certainly weren’t told!

This experience gave me the motivation to seek out a company that promotes diversity in the workplace and would value me for the work I could do. At PayPal, I feel empowered to be successful in my role, not because I’m a woman, but because I do my job well.

My advice to ambitious women is to seek out workplaces that recognise you for your skills and your value to the company, rather than for your gender. If you are confident in your skillset and project that confidence, then people will trust in your ability.

It is also important to diversify your skills. In the technology industry, there is no shortage of technical skills. To set yourself apart, it is worth honing your human skills, or ‘soft skills’. Being able to collaborate, problem solve and communicate is fundamental to my everyday role and has helped me get to where I am today.

Persistence, tenacity and humility

Sylvia Ding, Amazon Alexa ANZ Country Manager

Your network and your reputation will be valuable assets that you will need to foster throughout your career. Forming genuine, long-term relationships with people you respect and admire will benefit you greatly, as well as being helpful to those looking to you for advice and support.

Understanding what value you can bring to these relationships is helpful – being trustworthy and remaining humble is important.

Find what you’re passionate about and be willing to work hard and smart. Persistence and tenacity will help you go a long way. I would encourage everyone to be actively curious and work on areas of development – constant learning will help you grow professionally and personally.

Your reputation will precede you so it’s important to think about what legacy you want to leave behind in each stage of your career and what you want to be ‘famous’ for.

Three businesswomen sitting on large Pillows in an office and  talking during an informal meeting
Career advice from women, for women. (Source: Getty)

Figure out where you want to be, and be seen

Chelsea Rossney, director of Commercial Channel and chair of Women’s Impact Network at HP

First of all, it’s important to know you don’t need to be a manager to be a leader, and your journey can start any time you are ready.

Think about your career path and where you want to end up, such as aiming for that specific job role or industry to work in. That way, you know the experience and skills needed to get there and can use the paths of other successful leaders as inspiration to map your path.

Be bold enough to find an internal sponsor early in your career. This is someone who is at a senior leadership level and is on board to support your ambition for learning and growth and pass on their valuable skillset and knowledge on to you.

Build your profile by taking on stretch projects, whether at work or in the community – and be seen! Ensure your hard work is getting airplay so it’s visible across a wider range of business managers and other leaders. Presence in team events and social business engagements is important too, so people get to know you on all levels.

Find a mentor

Prue Cox, director of marketing solutions at LinkedIn

Find meaningful mentors that can help coach, inspire and develop you is so important. These can be men or women and don’t always have to work directly in your industry.

My advice is to be bold and ask your contacts to help you build a broader network, as they may not naturally take that step on their own. Ask them to introduce you to the people that they believe will be beneficial for your development.

You can also build quality connections on LinkedIn and become an active participant on the platform. Do this by engaging and commenting on your connection’s posts, to build credibility and awareness within your network and your network’s network.

Make sure to set yourself a goal to post a minimum of 1-2 times per week. This may be sharing a thought leadership article and adding your own ‘key takeout’ or asking a question of your network that is relevant to the article. I always suggest you also follow companies or leaders that inspire you.

Authenticity, feedback, and discomfort

Cristy Riddell, General Manager of Foods at Unilever Australia & New Zealand

Great connections stem from authenticity, so it is really important to be your whole self at work, and create an environment where others around you feel they can do the same.

I have also found that it is really worthwhile to make an effort to interact with your colleagues, clients and customers in a more informal capacity so that you can get to know them better and have meaningful conversations outside of action-oriented meetings.

Finally, I constantly ask for feedback and ways that I can improve, which I think is really important to evolving as a professional. I also see great value in providing constructive feedback so that your colleagues can progress with you.

Consider what gives you energy, have a point of view about where you want to go and don’t keep it to yourself. Be opportunistic, jump when the chance comes your way, and be generous in your time for other people.

Sometimes the most fun is when you challenge yourself, or get challenged, and by going outside your comfort zone you can really enjoy learning and building confidence to form new connections.

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