According to research by Aalto University School of Business, women hesitate to build networks because they underestimate their ability. The study, conducted by Marjo-Riitta Diehl and her research co-authors, investigated the motivational aspects of networking, especially for women. The research was published in the Journal Academy of Management.
They found that women don’t believe that they will add value to other members of their networks and, as a result, feel that they derive more benefits from the networks, leading to a fear that they owe a debt of gratitude to others.
The researchers suggest that such difficulty in relying on others and accepting benefits, combined with underestimating one’s value, form an obstacle that discourages networking for career development.
‘Women’s tendency to underestimate their value in professional networks and the job market is at odds with qualified women’s demand. Now is a good time to act! Women can be convinced of their qualities and professional value and engage proactively in powerful networks,’ says Diehl, associate professor of management studies.
‘Powerful people can support women’s engagement in networking by taking the first step toward establishing networks and reaching out to women who might hide behind their modesty.’
In addition, Diehl said: ‘Individual empowerment resulting from, for example, training programmes tailored towards women’s needs can create a ‘push effect’ that encourages women to engage in networking. Despite previous research suggesting that networks exclusively for women would solve the problem – the researcher does not recommend this.’
‘Unfortunately, our research does not unequivocally support the idea that networks for women alone would work better. This is because the networking needs for women in different stages of their careers do not necessarily link up with each other.’