9 Ways Successful Group Networking Empowers Women Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs often suffer from “lonely at the top” syndrome, the stressful feeling of isolation that comes with being the main decision-maker running a business. Networking has been suggested as a remedy to alleviate those feelings. But for female entrepreneurs who grapple with balancing long work days with family and societal responsibilities, there may be little room to fit in the traditional after-hours networking event.
How else can you, as a woman entrepreneur, network effectively? In leading management development seminars for women business owners, I have found that participants value group networking that goes along with day-long skill-building programs, as they provide the following additional benefits.
Entrepreneurs are a rare breed; less than six percent of the U.S. adult population runs their own business, and women account for less than half of that number, so women entrepreneurs may miss having professional colleagues like they would working in an organization. Group networking allows you, as a woman entrepreneur, to be part of a community of like-minded women you can relate to.
2. Creativity stimulation
In addition to deepening your business management skills at specialized women entrepreneur programs, the group networking involved also stimulates creativity and innovative thinking through working with other women entrepreneurs from diverse business backgrounds.
Group networking also serves as a sounding-board for women to speak openly and share stories of their successes and challenges with others with similar experiences. It also provides an opportunity for you to get honest feedback in a thoughtful and insightful way.
4. Interactive knowledge acquisition
Knowledge acquisition is multiplied through the process of active participation with facilitators, speakers and other women entrepreneurs in a group networking session, compared to the traditional model of one-on-one networking. That way, you not only build up your knowledge base, but also benefit from peer-group learning.
Women entrepreneurs tend to be more self-critical than their male counterparts, so it is encouraging to have others help validate tough decisions you have made. Peer group validation can be particularly beneficial for women entrepreneurs, motivating you as you take bold steps to grow your business.
Group networking allows participants to tap into new networks and to forge new business relationships. It is a golden opportunity for you to develop useful contacts, gain helpful information, and obtain positive business referrals.
Participants are inspired when they engage with facilitators and speakers who are authentic (i.e. those who are knowledgeable in their own fields and genuinely have participants’ interests at heart). Authenticity is valued by women, as it fosters trust, and authentic leadership can be an empowering leadership style for women.
Women entrepreneurs are time constrained; they don’t always take the time to reflect on past accomplishments and draw lessons from failures. Taking time away from your business environment with like-minded business people can be helpful for you in reflecting on and improving your decision-making skills.
9. An energy boost
Running a business is exhausting! A successful group networking event boosts your energy and allows you to return to your business with renewed confidence and refreshed with newly-acquired skills, ideas and business relationships.
Ladies, don’t let feelings of isolation engulf you. Find a supportive business networking group for women -- it could provide unexpected benefits!
(By Dr. Anino Emuwa. Dr. Emuwa is an international management consultant, academic and experienced non-executive director in the financial sector. She is a specialist in research and consulting on bank lending to SMEs and an AACSB certified business school instructional practitioner based in France.)