Once you see you can’t unsee
Networking in the workplace
I was at a networking event a few years ago, speaking to a senior leader on improving diversity in the workplace.
‘I am really trying Shivani, and genuinely want to make it better, I don’t know what I am doing wrong’ he said.
I asked him why he organised these events.
' There are lots of senior leaders here, so it is a great opportunity for the more junior people to network and build their relationships'
‘Look around the room’ I told him ‘what do you see’.
‘It looks like people are having a good time, chatting, networking…’
'Look again' I told him 'and this time pause and take a moment to look at WHO is networking with WHO'
He looked around again - It took a few minutes, but I saw his face change as he saw it.
Men were networking with men, women with women, underrepresented groups with each other….
It is the natural human instinct.
We gravitate towards those who remind us of ourselves...
Who we have commonalities with; our human instincts tells us ‘we will be safe’ with them.
Not just in the workplace, but in the playground, at schools...
There are benefits to this - feeling safe and belonging with a group who make you feel safe has a lot of value
But when we look at this from an inclusion and career progression lens – there lies a challenge.
Most senior leaders at this event, as with most companies, were white men.
They were therefore mainly networking with each other and other, more junior, white men.
Therefore the benefits of networking – the senior visibility, the building of relationships, was not being equally felt around the room.
It was a lightbulb moment for him.
He realised that he needed to CREATE the networking opportunities; the ‘safe spaces’ for everyone to be able to build these relationships.
We then went on to raise awareness amongst his wider team, and created structured networking events – such as speed networking; where it was the senior leaders who had to move around the room – sometimes with ice breakers to ease them into the conversation.
It was game changing.
We crossed paths again recently and he told me that now when he attends events, or even walks into meetings, he notices this human phenomenon – and where relevant will try and drive some change.
Once you see you really can't unsee!
Have you noticed this, and what do you think about ‘organised networking?’
Image below from friends – 'The one where Rachel smokes'–
a brilliant example of being ‘left out’ of networking, and thus missing a trip to Paris because she wasn’t part of the 'smokers club’
Love a Friend's reference! 😀