Work has always been about who you know, more than what you know. That’s why the rich and powerful send their children to elite schools. It’s not about the education but rather the connections. We still fool ourselves that a capitalist economy is a meritocracy — which any marginalized group can attest is false. However, the emerging network era and its democratization of media is giving voice to more of these groups.
I have advocated for retrieving gender balance in our organizations as the controlled linearity of the written and printed word — patriarchal in their essence — will be obsolesced by the connected, electric medium. This connected world requires each of us to develop broad and diverse social networks in addition to trusted communities of practice. Today, this is even more important for women than men, though I think it will be essential for all genders in the near future. Social networks are our professional safety nets.
Professor Brian Uzzi studied hundreds of MBA graduates and noted significant differences in the social networks of men and women. While social networks are important to both, successful women also had an ‘inner circle’ of trusted female advisors. Networks and communities are not the same. Communities are the connectors between diverse networks and work teams. They are essential. We all need an inner circle.
“Our study suggests that women face a greater challenge in networking to find professional opportunities – they, more than men, need to maintain both wide networks and informative inner circles in order to land the best positions. The good news is that by taking a smart approach, women can continue to find meaningful advancement options, while helping their peers and more junior contacts do the same.” —HBR 2019-02-25