Women Entrepreneurs and Professional Networking

Few months ago a Nicole Jackisch German exchange student doing her Master Thesis at IIMB contacted me and requested to take part in a survey of women entrepreneurs. I filled up the online questionnaire that was mostly about who I reach out to when I run into problems in tech, business and other aspects of entrepreneurship. I forgot about it but few weeks later she called me and asked for one more session as she found my answers were an aberration in her data samples. Curious I spent some time with her.

Her research was about comparison and pattern analyses of networking traits between Germany and India’s high potential women entrepreneurs (On a side note a comparison on the same lines with American counterparts would be hugely valuable).  She chose two contrasting industries, Fashion and Technology and surveyed equal number of Entrepreneurs in both fields.

Apparently I was one of the very few who contacted generic expert folks as opposed to male relatives that majority reached out to. She wanted to analyze why that is so. I was very surprised as, for me it is just plain common sense to reach out to folks who have been on the same path. Fortunately I am also blessed with quite a few phenomenal men and women ex-colleagues, mentors, and folks in the eco system who I can trust to give me appropriate (and sometimes blunt) suggestions, information and further contacts.  It has taken time, but I am thankful for these folks.

It would be unscientific to interpret this any further and I would encourage you to read the report which also doesn’t interpret but notes data patterns. However it may be relevant to note my personal experience (and opinion) while networking (strangely this term does have lot of negative connotation in India). There are three types of folks you meet in professional settings.

    1. A small percentage of socially reserved people who aren’t comfortable in talking to women.   – This affects one’s confidence when you go with lot of enthusiasm to discuss some bright ideas and reciprocated with silence.
    2. Another small percentage is of offensive people who make off color jokes, politically incorrect discriminatory statements (sometimes unwittingly) and sometime just plain innuendos in the name of being friendly.  – These are downright dangerous as they can completely derail ones esteem and make one defensive and bring a sense of disgust and despair.
    3. Thankfully majority folks are very professional and can be professional allies once a common professional ground is established.

The task for Entrepreneurs is to deal with type 1 and 2 in a tactful manner and not to let those experiences stopping one from reaching out to the large, sensible professional majority.  Would this limit the possibilities, probably, but everyone will have to deal with their own unique limitations, so just keep the focus on the goal and march on

(With Thanks to Nicole Jackisch who graciously shared her report)