Women Helping Women

Pink Magazine, in its May/June 2008 issue posed the following question to two female senior executives: Do women have a responsibility to help other women succeed in business? The women weighed in on both sides of the issue, with one stating that "helping other women succeed implies that women business owners need additional help", while the other respondent said "That's what the big guys do with junior men...Why shouldn't we do that for other women?"

Women business owners do need help and there's research data to prove it. I recently participated in a research study conducted by the Center for Women's Business Research. Their studies prove that women business owners, especially women of color, face a number of issues including, but not limited to: getting the necessary connections to decision makers, not being viewed as a standard of success, confronting unstated assumptions about the firm's ability to perform and gaining access to capital for business growth.

The Center's response has been to encourage women business owners to support one another by creating affinity groups to share information and contacts, educate one another, and leverage existing networks and access to decision makers. But, just having a network isn't enough. Studies show that women's networks are smaller and less effective than their male counterparts.

So, what's a woman to do? Women have to begin creating and expanding their own networks like other minority groups. The Asian American community has successfully built a financial network that provides its members with up to 24% of the funding they need to grow their businesses. It's a successful networking model and women business owners should take notice.

Women business owners need to learn how to use networks to their advantage by becoming integrated into networks that are predominately male. It is better to have connections in many networks rather than many connections in one. Women have to seek out seminars, coaching and education to expand your network and grow their businesses.

I think we do have a responsibility to help other women and I think men have set one example for how to do it. The "good old boy's" network is not just a euphemism. It's real and as far as I can tell, it's been pretty effective at building and expanding business. So, if women don't look out for one another, who will?