When it comes to the difference between men and women in the City, it’s quite common to hear about the pay gap. And increasingly we’re hearing about the seniority gap, as companies make concerted efforts to get more women on boards. But you never hear people talking about the network gap between men and women. And that is a shame, because the network gap may well explain the other two gaps. Two years ago I left the ivory tower to create a business that would help people build better networks. As an academic, I knew of fascinating research about the networks of highly successful people, but no one seemed to apply this in practice. I was sure there would be a market for showing people how to have better networks.
My business partner and I quickly learned that offering to help people build better networks wasn’t a good business proposition. Most people don’t like networking, but that doesn’t mean they want to buy in help. We realised that people don’t lose sleep over their network. They lose sleep over money, falling out with their boss or wanting a better job. Ironically, their network might a solution to any of those problems. But for women, and especially women in companies dominated by men, there is a deeper problem. Research shows that, because numbers count against them, women and other minorities have fewer connections to the predominantly male people at the centre of power. This numbers problem, plus the fact that women are less likely to use their connections for personal gain, and are more likely to face a backlash if seen to be pushy, create a disadvantage for women. That is what I mean by the network gap. I explain more about it in the infographic.
I think there is a solution, which is to make it more normal to ask. If everyone – men and women – was expected to be pushy about their career, women would not fear a backlash. What women need is a practical way to think about who to ask and how to start the conversations that will advance their career. Our approach, based on the 12 roles you need in your Personal Boardroom, does this, and it creates a shared language for asking for and offering help. Practical tools like this will take us a good way towards addressing the pay gap and the seniority gap.
If you’d like to think about your own Personal Boardroom, we’re making our online tool freely available to WATC members until the end of January. You tell us who is in your Boardroom, and we send you our diagnostic report and suggestions about how it could improve. Go to my.personalboardroom.com and register with the code WATCQ1
By Zella King, Co-Founder Personal Boardroom
Dr Zella King is an Executive Fellow at Henley Business School and Co-Founder of Personal Boardroom. Zella began her career in consulting for Accenture and in corporate finance at Schroders. She gained a PhD in Occupational Psychology from Birkbeck College, London and and joined the business school at the University of Reading in 2002. In 2014, she left the academic world to create Personal Boardroom, a company that helps people think about their network in a highly practical way. Zella’s book Who is in your Personal Boardroom? How to choose people, assign roles and have conversations with purpose, co-authored with Amanda Scott, was published in October 2014.