Do men and women network differently?

You may be familiar with the phrase “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” – a pop-culture cliche that became the accepted way we expressed our understanding of gender differences for the past two decades. As a successful financial adviser, you recognize these differences in every aspect of planning — whether the subject is investments, retirement, risk assessment or estate planning.

Recent studies extend the concept to new areas, including one that may contribute significantly to your ability to build your business: Networking. Do men and women network differently? Is it possible to surmise that two individuals, entering a room filled with strangers, each with the identical objective of meeting new contacts that may benefit their bottom line, will have a different approach, and different levels of success based on gender?

According to researchers like Ivan Misner, co-author of “Business Networking and Sex,” the answer is “yes.” And if you see networking as a collaborative enterprise, not a competition, you’ll agree. The book’s survey of 12,000 business people found women to be more relational than men in a networking situation—i.e. more collaborative–where men tend to be transactional.

  • Men network to make connections. They focus on meeting people who can do something for them –whether it’s facilitating high level introductions or product-pitch opportunities.
  • Women network to initiate new relationships, to the point of seeking out people they can help—by finding them a job lead or providing references to an elite school.  

Take starting a conversation:  The male usually begins with: “Hi-I’m Tom Smith; I’m a real estate attorney.” A female, on the other hand, might approach another woman by admiring her handbag or a man by noticing his tie.   

Behavioral finance pioneer Dr. Meir Statman, Professor of Finance at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University and author of “What Investors Really Want” (subtitled “Know What Drives Investor Behavior and Make Better Financial Decisions”) proposes that men often look at life as a game — a game with winners and losers. The more business cards you take home, therefore, the more successful the networking event. Women are more interested in who they meet, rather than how many. A single new relationship is more meaningful than a dozen handshakes. One expert compares the technique to LinkedIn. Even if your new acquaintance can’t directly affect your business, maybe he or she knows someone who can.

Networking veterans complain that women often fail to get to the point– spending too much time talking about their personal lives. Misner, however, believes that men may decrease their chances of establishing a rapport with a prospect by getting down to business too abruptly.  Research for Misner’s book arrived at another conclusion: women who participated in the survey spent less of their time networking, but generated more business from these (networking) events than the men.

In other words, both men and women have the potential to achieve great networking results but they do it by using different approaches. The key to success is awareness of the gender differences to make the most of them.  

SOURCES

Misner, I., PHD. (2012). Business Networking and Sex: Not What You Think. Irvine, CA: Entrepreneur Press.

Statman, M., PHD. (2010). What Investors Really Want: Know What Drives Investor Behavior and Make Smarter Financial Decisions. New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

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