Why is connection and collaboration so powerful for women?
Connecting with others is more important than we might think. Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, improve our immune systems and even lengthen our lives. One study showed lack of social connection can be worse for our health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity.
Collaboration is a powerful tool, particularly for small business owners who often tend to be resource-poor. Collaborating with others, whether individuals or other businesses, can help inspire you, grow your network, educate you, save you money, save you time, solve problems and best of all, a partnership or collaboration, if crafted well, should be a win-win for both parties.
As Lola Member Elayne Fluker shares in her new book, women have fought hard for our rights and freedoms. We have a strong sense of wanting to support and nurture those around us. We have also been taught we need to lean into and value our masculine energy to get ahead. As a result, you will often find us wrapped up tightly in our superwoman capes taking on the world, feeling exhausted, undervalued and alone. Read Elayne’s story here.
Women too often believe it takes too much time to get help or it looks weak or incompetent to ask for support, but getting support is a source of strength not weakness and there are dire (if not deadly) consequences of always going at it alone. Don’t get swallowed up by the superwoman complex, seek out and ask for help. Chances are that someone in your network has already solved what you’re struggling with.
We also need to reverse the stereotype that women don’t support other women. There is research that shows women in particular benefit from collaboration over competition. Study after study shows women who support women are more successful in business and that they often lead better together.
Dia Parker, Executive Director for Athena’s Warehouse and Member at The Lola, believes women supporting women is more than a hashtag. It has become one of the values she lives through and leads by.
Research shows, Kellogg School of Management, that women who form a strong inner circle with other women (who can share gender specific career advice) are nearly three times more likely to get a better job than women who don’t have that support system. Women only networks are on the rise and there are many benefits to being part of a female forward network. Being communal allows women to share ideas and skills and leverage the best pieces into the most optimal work.
How to take the work out of networking
Networking is the most important thing women should do for their careers – but aren’t. Women often socialized to believe many of the negative myths about networking, it’s insincere, pushy, or even manipulative, only for political corporate climbers, not “real work”, best left to extroverts and all about gathering as many contacts as possible.
Let’s face it, most of us hate even the idea of networking. In fact, it’s so unpleasant that this study, co-authored by Harvard professor Francesca Gino, found that people avoid professional networking because it makes them feel physically dirty!
When we think of networking we think of large, blandly decorated rooms filled with suits, name tags, cheap wine, bad food, uncomfortable shoes and a bag full of crumpled business cards and flyers. Or images of “the old-boys network” pop into our head, where men informally use their positions of influence to help other men. While some might think that women need to network like men to get ahead, research suggests that that doesn’t work for us and we commonly make these mistakes.
Men are socialized early on to network and blend personal relationships with work ones to get ahead. Women are less comfortable doing that. Men tend to create broad networks and strong alliances. They also network with a clear, short term goal in mind.
“Men and women have very different brains and they do network differently. The male brain is more compartmentalized; they get straight to the point; they know the goal. They tend to decide right away, with little to no small talk, whether they will work with you or not.” – Helen Fisher, Ph.D.
Six ways women network differently – Forbes
- Women focus on building long-term personal connections or friendships.
- They make contacts through people they know.
- They form smaller, deeper networks based on trust.
- They frequently seek advice for both personal and professional needs.
- They tend to think about what they can do for the other person first and hesitate to ask for what they want out of the interaction.
- Women also (typically) don’t want to attend events after work because it eats into their life outside of work and they are still more likely to be the primary caregivers at home.
“Women who try to network like men to get ahead actually do the worst because they are missing one crucial ingredient, a close inner circle of women. 77% of the highest-achieving women in the study had strong ties with an inner circle of two to three other women” – Kellogg School of Management
Six ways for women to build high quality connections
“High-quality connections are relationships where people are safe to express and display emotions; where people can withstand conflict or strain; and where people can be creative and get work done.” – Jane Dutton and Emily Heaphy
After meeting through work and building a friendship, Kia Perry and Jazlin Pitts, Co-founders of HERMARKET, decided to create a community for other women running their own businesses. This community is able to support each other and is a platform where others are able to find and support women-owned businesses. HERMARKET is The Lola’s official retail partner for THE SHOP at The Lola. Read their story here.
To create high quality connections;
- Focus on relationships over networking – Networking is transactional. You go, you meet people for a short period of time and you leave with a stack of business cards and a long to-do list. Relationships are about creating and nurturing long term partnerships, you do need to be patient and put in the time and effort before you will get something back, so start small by aiming for fewer but deeper connections.
- Prioritize your relationships – Does your calendar reflect your values and goals? A lot of time the answer is no, because we have too much on our plates. Women should do less and network more. If you want to strengthen and build your relationships, make time for them. Professional networking groups for women remain valuable, to build a rich but also supportive network look for diverse communities, where you can connect with a variety of women different from you and beyond your immediate industry.
- Join women forward online communities. While we may be momentarily a little tired of connecting online, the pandemic has proved not only that making meaningful connections online is possible but also very convenient, effective and efficient, saving us time and the need to get dressed, find childcare and leave the house. Online communities are now a billion dollar market and there are plenty of online communities that are specifically for women in business and these apps are also helping professional women connect more easily. Added bonus, closed, female forward communities help women avoid the harassment they often face online.
- Co-working and shared workspaces – A space designed to bring people together in a more relaxed, friendly and familiar setting is often what women need to feel comfortable and make connections more easily. Look for spaces that are designed and programmed with women in mind and who intentionally build connections between Members. Discover how a coworking space helped these founders find a valuable support system
- Raise up other women – It’s not a zero sum game, by raising up other women not only will it make you come across as a confident, self assured team player, but these things tend to circle back around. Although that shouldn’t be your only goal.
- Find your women and tap into them – Create your inner circle, who are the best women to help you get where you want to go, hold you accountable and pick you up when you’re down? Try to seek out women with similar values and goals on a broader level, but also those who have had different stories, experiences and complimentary skills to you, so you can learn from one another, or even collaborate together down the road. It helps to see it, look for those who are at a different life stage to you or have already made a transition you’re looking to make, so you can visualize the path and learn from them. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from others, ask for feedback and support. Let others know their input is important to you and asking for help will strengthen your connection and help them feel invested in your success.
When Rachel Katz and Kelley Bowen, met at The Lola they fostered a friendship, and furthermore, a partnership. Together they have created The Brand Set, a new brand-strategy agency that focuses on helping businesses simplify their approach to branding. Through their partnership, they have come to deeply appreciate the need for connection and their love for collaboration. Learn more about Rachel and Kelly’s story here.
Finally, and above all, build connections with women who are invested in your success and remember when it comes to relationships, you often get back what you give.
Alone we have power – together we have force.
The Lola is a community of diverse, smart-minded women, allies and accomplices who span multiple generations, industries and backgrounds. We gather together in our Atlanta space and online through our Member platform to create space, connect, collaborate, grow and thrive.
Summer Offer: Apply for a Space Membership at The Lola Atlanta by August 31st and get your $250 initiation fee waived.
Get focused and connected in our safe and comfortable space and collaborate with other Lola Members in person and on our digital platform. Join a virtual community group meetup and enjoy a wine tasting or cocktail hour with your fellow Members after a productive day at The Lola.
“At The Lola, we get through things together in community with other women. Whether it’s a new baby, a professional win, or an illness or setback, The Lola community steps up in support and solidarity. It’s nice to have other women in my corner! I have loved seeing this community learn and grow together over the years.” – Amy Zehfuss