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30 August 2011

High hopes in high heels

Bonjour,

Hope all is well with you out in the reader-sphere as I post these last few pieces from Brussels, before I head away back across the Atlantic. 

I had a lovely talk with my colleagues from PwC Bermuda last month.  I was curious – as I’m sure you will be – about what life and work are like on a small Island (and one of the smallest territories in the world) with such a mix of locals, expatriates and – oh, joy of joys – the SUN! 

Below Cherie-Anne Dam and Jo Derbyshire of PwC Bermuda bring you the latest gender agenda guest piece.  Enjoy!

à bientôt,

Dale

300811 
 

What do you get when you put 60 women in a designer shoe store...

...the first women’s networking event sponsored by PwC Bermuda. Oh, and maybe a bit of retail therapy.

Borne out of feedback from the women of our firm, there was a strong desire to have a forum for formal networking with other professional women in Bermuda.  Now I know what you are thinking...is that really necessary in Bermuda, one of the smallest territories in the world?  Overkill surely! 
Well on the face of it you are right, on an island with a total area of 20 square miles you can’t go more than a few steps without seeing a familiar face, however, with many of us being ‘guest workers’ we have probably devoted more time to focusing on building friendships, rather than networks since we have been on the island and therefore could probably benefit from transitioning from social to strategic networking.

It took a session on “Networking Strategies for Women” hosted by our women’s networking group, known as aware (Advancing women through Attracting, Retaining and Empowering) for many of us to recognise this.  The gender dynamics of networking are fascinating.  According to a study conducted by Dr Wanda Wallace:

- women focus more on vertical rather than horizontal relationships
- men spend more time connecting with their peers
- more women have negative views of networking as too transactional and  a “waste of time”
- men view networking as critical to their business role.

For many of us in the room, this was an “a-ha!” moment. It was time for us to take action. What networking event could we hold that would have broad appeal to our female client base?  A  shopping fund-raiser, scheduled to mark the centenary of International Women’s Day seemed like the perfect choice.

The feedback from our clients was overwhelmingly positive.  They appreciated having the opportunity to grow their networks in a relaxed, fun environment.  Even for those women who would not describe themselves as ‘a natural’ the shoes were ice breakers for starting conversations.  There are certain things in a woman’s life that connect us and cross the divide: the words “Jimmy Choo” can evoke a strong reaction as well as create a bond. 

In reflecting back on this, there is definitely something to this thing they call networking.  However it is up to us as women, to actively make it work in a manner that is effective for us, that helps us to develop our business opportunities. For once, the men may just be onto something here, but it definitely needs a women’s touch. Although I am not sure our VISA cards would agree...

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Comments

Thank you for sharing this event and the interesting facts about how men and women view networking. I believe we all need a bit more training on strategic networking and figuring out ways to quickly learn how to add values to our networks.

This is a wonderful, fabulous blog. There was an event held here in Pittsburgh, which used a wine and cheese event, similar to your shoe bonding experience. Women had to introduce themselves as a type of cheese, which was fun and disarming. I'll have to suggest Jimmy Choo the next go round! (Or Manolo, my personal favorite.)

I encourage you to reach out to Leanne Meyers, principal at Naridus.com who was a co-host of the event, and global thought leader on gender as a business issue and narrative storytelling. It is great to have a network, however, the narrative story you are telling your network needs to be authentic with what a woman is trying to achieve in her life (along with the family balance). I personally went through her "perfection to passion" program two years ago and I have let go of all of the things that were holding me back in the world of "things a woman is supposed to do to be perfect" to build exactly the life I wanted.

Keep up the good work ladies!

Natalie Sweeney
President
Straightline

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