Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Secrets of Successful Female Networkers

One oft-cited reason why more female executives don’t advance to top management jobs is their lack of access to informal organizational and industry networks. Some people blame unconscious bias: High-ranking men connect more easily with other men. Others cite professional and personal obligations, from office housekeeping to child-rearing, that disproportionately fall to women, leaving them less time to develop professional relationships.

But some female leaders do establish strong networks—and they win greater influence and more-senior positions as a result. What are they doing differently?

A new study sheds light on their strategies. “I was talking with many women about how to improve their networks, the challenges they face, and what they and their organizations could do better, and I realized that all the studies on the issue were pretty old and narrow,” explains Inga Carboni, a professor at William & Mary’s Mason School of Business and the study’s lead author. “I couldn’t answer their questions.”

The researchers analyzed data collected from 16,500 men and women in more than 30 organizations across a range of industries over the past 15 years. Then they interviewed hundreds of female executives. This led them to identify four characteristics that distinguish the networking behaviors of more-successful women from those of their peers. In some cases those matched the behaviors of high-performing men; in others there were subtle but important differences.

When shaping their professional networks, top women were:


Studies, including the new one, show that women generally absorb more collaborative demands in the workplace than their male peers do. But the female managers with the strongest networks “recognize that every ‘yes’ means a ‘no’ to something else,” says Babson College’s Rob Cross, one of Carboni’s coauthors. He notes that one Silicon Valley executive he knows has adopted that idea as her mantra. Although these successful female networkers might feel an identity-driven desire and a stereotype-influenced pressure to help colleagues out and be a team player, they try to resist. They prune nonessential appointments from their calendars, deflect low-priority decisions and requests, run streamlined meetings, insist on efficient email norms, and set aside time for reflection and high-level thinking. At the same time, they make the most of their collaborative strengths and inclinations by working with others in a way that establishes or enhances key relationships and ups their visibility.

“At every level in organizations, women are more likely to be sought out for advice,” Carboni says. “And when asked about the downsides of saying no, every woman I interviewed said they’d feel bad.” But she emphasizes that the research is clear: The female executives who rise to the top are “more strategic and thoughtful” about how they spend their time. Organizations can do their part by tracking unseen collaborative work, ensuring that it’s evenly spread among male and female employees, and pushing all leaders, but especially women, to unabashedly prioritize their most important tasks.


The researchers’ data shows that most women’s relationships, particularly those with female peers, are stickier than men’s, growing stronger, more mutual, and more interwoven over time. Carboni and Cross note that this can occasionally be a positive—for example, an old contact might offer a new opportunity or employment prospect. But if you work in a dynamic organization that requires rapid adjustments to changing demands (and who doesn’t nowadays?), always relying on the same people can hurt your performance.

Successful female networks are more fluid. High-ranking women know when to deemphasize old connections in favor of new ones (whether by proactively cutting ties or by simply failing to maintain contact). For example, says Cross, “when you’re at an inflection point at work or are embarking on a new project, you want to think about your goals and who will help you reach them—whether those goals are political (gaining early access to opinion leaders), developmental (supplementing skills gaps), innovation-oriented (searching for new insights), or related to best practices (finding people who know efficiencies).” He acknowledges that some women find this inauthentic, even Machiavellian, but notes that men interpret the same behavior as putting the work first. He says it’s OK to have a “tenure bell curve” in professional relationships. Women should, of course, maintain some long-known advisers. But they should consistently initiate new connections, and organizations can help them by instituting processes such as network reviews at the start of new assignments or during performance evaluations.


The highest-ranking, best-networked women connect with people in a wide variety of functions, geographies, and business units. Again, less successful female networkers tend to shy away from the tactic because it feels uncomfortable or overly promotional. “We heard from women that they liked their own communities,” Carboni says, whereas spanning boundaries made them wary of “backlash” and “stressed out.” But that behavior is critical to accessing new information, leading innovation, and pursuing advancement, for both women and men. Cross suggests periodically considering the leaders in your organization and asking yourself, “Who isn’t in my network but should be?” He advises approaching them “not with ‘Here’s what I need’ but with ‘Could we grab a coffee and explore ways of working together?’” Companies including Ford and Booz Allen Hamilton have tried to institutionalize the practice by setting up cross-functional groups of female high potentials who meet regularly with C-suite executives.


More than two decades’ worth of research shows, perhaps not surprisingly, that the highest performers are seen as the most energizing people in their networks—as the type of colleague who makes the work more engaging, which then drives better performance. But men and women are expected to bring different energy to relationships, and this is where effective female networkers set themselves apart from less successful women: They demonstrate both competence and warmth, both intelligence and emotional intelligence, as studies—the researchers’ and others—suggest they must to build trust. “The most successful women don’t downplay their knowledge, skills, and accomplishments; they show evidence that they can do things,” Cross says. “But they also use humor, presence, and small gestures to signal caring and positivity, and they employ listening skills to spur creative thinking among their colleagues.”

The researchers say they hope more women will adapt their networking behaviors in keeping with these four characteristics. They add that organizations have a big role to play too. “The goal is to embed these behaviors and practices so that they’re the norm for everybody,” Cross says.
About the Research: “How Successful Women Manage Their Networks,” by Inga Carboni et al. (working paper)
A version of this article appeared in the November–December 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

How to Successfully Launch (And Grow) A Business

Written by: JAVIER SIMON

Four essential steps for Latino leaders, innovators, and visionaries looking to establish themselves as entrepreneurs

As the nation’s businesses recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19, Hispanic entrepreneurs are steaming ahead. In fact, Latinos are kicking off businesses at a faster rate than any other group in the country, according to a recent report published by the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Over the past decade, Latino-owned businesses have grown by 44 percent, while non-Latino start-ups have grown by just 4 percent. For Hispanic entrepreneurs looking to turn their dreams into a reality, this is promising news. Juan Hernandez, CEO and cofounder of Creser Capital, speaks to these entrepreneurs on a regular basis. His organization provides microloans and other support to small businesses throughout California’s Sonoma County. “Latinos represent 30 percent of Sonoma County, yet hold only one-eighth of the wealth,” Hernandez says. “They’ll be 60 percent of the county by 2060. And if they still hold one-eighth of the wealth, that’s a problem.”

Latinos at large are ready to solve that problem. But they have to start somewhere.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan

Just because you believe your business idea is great, that doesn’t mean everyone else would agree. Before you start a business, do some homework.

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends you begin by conducting market research to understand consumer behavior and market trends in your industry. This will give you a pulse on what people want and what competitors are doing to meet that demand. The SBA website even offers some free market research and competitor analysis resources.

Once you’ve determined that your idea is a viable business concept, you can incorporate your research into your business plan. Your business plan is an evolving document that explains why your business rocks and tells investors how you plan to make it profitable.

Some people type out business plans in a Word doc, but others create a multimedia plan. The most effective approach would depend on your business model, but no matter what, your plan should include the following:

  • An executive summary: this is where you present the strongest pitch for your business.
  • A company description: explain the structure and purpose of your business.
  • A market analysis: this is where you present your market research and competitive analysis.
  • A product and service description: explain your products and services.
  • Financials: in this section, you should include your expenses, revenue, debt, and other pertinent financial information. You should also detail any funding you have received thus far and/or make a request for funding that you need—and explain how you will make a profit off that funding.

Your business plan will help you keep the business on track, but it’ll also come in handy when you’re raising funds from investors, as it will clearly show how you plan to run a profitable business that would be worth their investment.
2. Secure Your Funds

For most Latino entrepreneurs, securing funding from traditional institutions is rarely an easy task. In fact, the Stanford study found that in 2021, only 46 percent of Latinos were approved for business loans by local banks as opposed to 66 percent for the white population.

However, the same study showed that 64 percent of Latinos were approved for funding by a nonprofit (by contrast, only 45 percent of white business owners were approved for that type of funding). Local nonprofits like Creser specialize in microloans. These are business loans, usually ranging up to $50,000, that are provided by SBA-approved lenders.

But those are not the only funding options available to entrepreneurs. Other solid options include crowdfunding and SBA initiatives like the 8(a) Business Development program.

After you’ve developed your business plan and raised some funds, you may think it’s time to launch the business, whether at a physical location or somewhere in cyberspace.

But before you start making a penny, make sure you’re in the clear with Uncle Sam.

3. Fill Out Your Paperwork

Running a business in the US means operating under a spiderweb of rules and regulations imposed by the IRS and other regulatory bodies. Failure to follow the rules can lead to massive fines or even imprisonment. So, it’s important to cross your t’s and dot your i’s as soon as possible.

The tax documents and forms you’ll need will vary depending on your business, but here are some of the most common ones:

4. Never Stop Improving

The work isn’t done once your business has launched—long-term success will depend on your ability (and your business’) to continue growing, improving, and adapting to the market.

Creser Capital raised more than $1 million and lent nearly $400,00 within a year of launching in 2020. Today, Hernandez says that figure is closer to $500,000. But the journey continues: Creser’s current endeavor is to get certified by the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in order to attract more investors and gain the federal government’s seal of approval.

Hernandez calls the application process “a gauntlet” with “red tape” at every turn (Creser’s application was at one point dismissed because a board member who was working from home didn’t make note of the business address), but Hernandez says nothing will stop him from achieving this goal.

That determination stems in part from his belief that he’s part of a greater movement. “There’s no bigger opportunity for the US to grow than investing in the Latino community,” Hernandez says. “I think it’s going to save America.”