Building a New Girls' Network
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Dar’s goal is to be top of mind whenever anyone needs help with financial services or sales. “I want that to be my brand: Marivic Dar from Prudential.” She says everyone should try to excel in at least one thing that can help brand them, but cautions, “Be careful what your brand says about you, and make sure you can deliver on what you promise.” The best thing to do, she says, is be yourself.
Miyazawa Frank’s desire to help others is the key to her networking success. “One of my personal mantras is that you give first and maybe you get later. Maybe,” she says. “And that applies in my professional life and my personal life. I think I always try to approach anything with, ‘What can I do; how can I get involved?’ And if there is a professional opportunity that comes of it, that’s great, but it’s not usually the first thing that’s on my mind.”
The women agree that networking isn’t just about schmoozing and selling yourself — it’s about listening. “You have to listen,” Dar emphasizes. “You can still make an impact when you’re quiet. It shows that you’re intelligent enough to just listen. I don’t try to pretend that I know something when I don’t. We all know people like that who just want to be a part of the conversation and don’t want to seem unintelligent so they pretend to know about something when it’s clear that they don’t. That’s worse than just being quiet. You have to be confident, but not cocky and aggressive. If you’re genuine, people will observe that about you. Being respectful, that’s also huge when networking. You have to make people feel comfortable and try to find common ground.”
Morgan Stanley’s Lopez thinks it’s easier to find common ground when you’re associated with an all-wahine organization. She participates in the Wahine in Hawaii Business at Laniakea Leadership Series at the YWCA and likes that women of all professional levels gather to learn from and support one another.
“I’m not sure if it’s because the events are attended by mostly, if not only, women, but it is much less intimidating than other networking events that I have been to. There is definitely a sense of genuine support, and I think it’s because most of the women who attend understand how difficult it is to succeed in businesses that are often male-dominated environments.” But, she adds, “Don’t get me wrong, I can spar with the best of the boys, but somehow, in a women’s-only organization, it feels like it’s less about showing off and more about ‘How can I help?’”
Dar, who belongs to and enjoys both women’s groups and mixed-gender groups, suspects many women feel more comfortable sharing their ideas in the absence of men. “It’s the same concept as all-girls schools,” she says. “It’s not as competitive and I think we might have more shared interests and common ground than if it were a group of men and women.”
Any group — colleagues, soccer moms or friends from your ceramics class — can be a network. And depending on what kind of expertise or help you need, you might tap a different network. Ing says she maintains a separate “network” folder in her email program specifically for the various groups she’s developed informally over the years, which include classmates from high school and law school, nonprofit contacts, hula sisters and other women executives.
Last year, Ing’s network grew when she met Joanna Amberger, the CEO of 3 Financial Group, at the inaugural Wahine in Hawaii Business Forum at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The two hit it off and eventually partnered up for a presentation on local investment scams.
Technology is also making it even easier to connect with people from all over the globe. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have become very powerful professional and social networking devices. The trick is finding what’s right for you.
In other cases, networking isn’t so structured and occurs even when you’re not aware. Lau says the Junior League allows her to make connections with women that she would probably never associate with in her career as an office manager for Island Veterinary Care. “You get to meet so many women from different backgrounds, and the great thing when you’re a part of an organization is that everyone is working toward the same goal,” she says. “I think that’s very powerful.”
Dar says she is proud and excited about all the great achievements women are making in male-dominated sectors and organizations. She acknowledges that women still have a long way to go to realize true equality in the workplace, but says, “We should also celebrate how far we’ve come. I am just so pleased that we are helping one another — not just ourselves — to move up, shatter that glass ceiling and mentor the next generation of women leaders. It says a lot about who we are and where we’re going. That’s what the new girls’ network is to me — joining together and being the best that we possibly can in any environment.”
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