Every month we have a Masterclass where we deep dive into a topical issue. Our most recent masterclass was dedicated to Women in CX: Empowering female employees to deliver CX Excellence.
We were joined by Gemma Rabbini – a qualified Communications and Confidence coach who is passionate about working with women. Several years ago, Gemma founded ‘Coach & Bloom’ where she helps women in CX tell their story with maximum impact and achieve their true potential.
Building on our practical Masterclass series, we talked to Gemma about why the female employee experience is so important in delivering great CX.
The session was received extremely well and Gemma along with The CX Company CEO, Cathy Summers provided great insight into why women sometimes struggle with their career progression.
During the session, an interesting question was posed, “Is there an issue with women and networking?”
Gemma explained that even though there is a lot of evidence to show that careers are built and strengthened through networking, women are focused on delivery, wanting to be seen and recognised for the good job they’re doing.
She went on further to say that networking can sometimes feel like an ‘interview on steroids!’ where you’re meeting loads of people and thinking that they’re all judging you. Whereas in reality they are just thinking about themselves.
“At the end of the day no one is an island and everyone, women or men, need to make an effort to network.”
The question generated so much discussion we decided to reach out to an expert in the field, Kingsley Aikins, the CEO of The Networking Institute for his views, on why women find it harder to network than men and to reach leadership positions.
Here’s what he had to say:
“Great strides have been made recently in Ireland with women in leadership positions but there is still a major gap. It reminds me of the old political slogan ‘Much done – more to do’…!! However – think of the following. When I was in university, (admittedly neither today nor yesterday I hasten to add….) there were no women Presidents – now there are 6 female Presidents of Irish Universities including nearly all the major ones. So why is there still a gap?
“Work doesn’t speak – other people speak and if you haven’t built a network of mentors and sponsors you are going to get overlooked.”
You mention the familiar ones which are still valid – rearing children and the fact that men don’t do their fair share of domestic duties. For example, if you are a woman in a professional services firm, as you progress up the career ladder there is often an expectation that you are available for client issues (the curse of billable hours) and put in 60–70-hour weeks. A lot of women just won’t put up with that and they bail out.
However, there are several other elements at work –
- A lot of women take the following approach – “I am going to keep my head down, work really hard, keep out of trouble and let my work speak for itself”……the flaw in all this is that work doesn’t speak – other people speak and if you haven’t built a network of mentors and sponsors you are going to get overlooked.
- Here’s the harsh reality – every major decision about you, your compensation, your next promotion, and the next project you take on, will be taken by a group of people sitting around a table in a room and you won’t be in that room. Accordingly, if nobody knows you and speaks up for you then they are going to go on to the next name on the list.
- That’s why women need to have a mentor and a sponsor. A mentor talks to you and a sponsor talks about you. You can survive without a mentor – you can’t ascend without a sponsor. A mentor can be outside your company, but a sponsor must be in the organisation.
- Many women miss this and don’t realise that they have to be constantly working on their personal brand. Everyone has one whether they like it or not. In fact, not having a personal brand IS having a personal brand. It’s not what you say it is – it’s what other people say about you. It’s about your reputation – defined as what people say about you when you are not in the room. Men put a lot of time and effort into being ‘visible’ and being known for something – a go-to person on some topic. Accordingly, you have to become known – known not famous – you don’t have to be a Kardashian! Women are shyer at ‘tooting their own horn’.
“You can survive without a mentor – you can’t ascend without a sponsor.”
- A lot of women will not put themselves forward for a promotion if they feel they are only 80% qualified to do the job. Men put themselves forward if they are 40% qualified!
- Men tend to build large networks of diverse people from many backgrounds – women tend to have smaller networks of people like themselves. Professor Marissa King of Yale University put out a book fairly recently called Social Chemistry and said that, in the US, as a result of Covid, men’s networks have decreased by 30% – she said men like to do things with other men and are quite transactional e.g going for a pint, cycle, attend football match, play golf etc. During Covid, on the other hand, she said that women’s networks have not decreased at all, and she explains that by saying that women get their comfort by communicating with other women and they build strong bonds doing that.
So, the challenge/opportunity now is to get women to appreciate that they need to build strong and diverse networks if they want to proceed up the career ladder – not a luxury but a necessity – not a nice to have but a must have.
I’m a fan of an American writer Harvey Coleman who has what he calls the PIE theory of career progress.
The ‘P’ stands for performance, and he says an outrageous thing – how well you do your job contributes 10% to your career progress. Surely it should be 80 or 90% and he says No. He says doing a great job is the minimum, it’s mandatory and is expected of everyone. It gets you on the ladder but not up the ladder – career progress is about going up the ladder. Good performance gets you into the stadium of competition. He says an interesting thing “You get paid on performance – you get promoted on what other people think of your potential”. So now he is introducing two pesky little words ‘other people’. Now he is introducing an element of subjectivity.
“You get paid on performance – you get promoted on what other people think of your potential.”
The ‘I’ of the PIE theory stands for Image and that is all about what people think of you and this counts for 30%. What are you known for, what’s your reputation, what’s your boss think of you – what does your boss’s boss think of you.
The ‘E’ is 60% and stands for exposure. Who has seen you in action, perform at meetings, speak publicly etc. This is all pretty radical stuff and I have presented it in many countries, and nobody denies it or says it is not true. I often think that women don’t appreciate the extent that the PIE theory will determine their career progress.
The number one predictor of career success is being in an open network and many women don’t realize that.
A bit harsh but it’s all about the unwritten rules of career progress. To succeed you have to be smart, but you also have to be something else – you have to be savvy and that means being streetwise, having cop-on and understanding the politics of the office. And the key to all this – to survive and thrive we all need to build strong and diverse networks.”
To learn more about The Networking Institute and their offer visit https://thenetworkinginstitute.com/
That said, networking for women is not a lost cause. As Gemma said during the Masterclass, if you can force yourself to do just one thing out of your comfort zone a week, like going to a networking event or starting a conversation with someone in your company who you look up to. These little breakthroughs can add up quickly and make a big difference to your career, confidence, and overall happiness.
Of course, in addition to the above you can also ensure that you are confident in your knowledge and skills [This is where we could help]
All in all, there is still a gap in gender in the leadership positions and while women have to work on their networking skills, men (especially those at the top) should reach out to help women network and climb their career ladders.
If you would like to learn more about Customer Experience and gain confidence in your skills and knowledge, enrol in our Professional Diploma today.