If you are a woman, becoming CIO can be a significant challenge. However, once you are able to achieve this goal, that is when the real work starts. As CIO, you need to take the time to network in order to both maintain your position and be effective. However, networking is much harder for women to do than men. There are very few women who achieve positions of power in companies that it can be difficult for women to find people who will sponsor them in order to make introductions and referrals. Because of all of this it can be easy for women CIOs to start to believe that there is something wrong with the process of networking.
The Problem With Bonding
Women do face unique problems when it comes to networking. Women who occupy the CIO position can find it challenging to get in contact with other people who may be more senior than they are and who work outside of IT and who may not know about the importance of information technology. However, it turns out that the problem that women who have the CIO job have is an even bigger problem when it comes to networking. A great deal of research has shown that it turns out that people like to both form and maintain relationships with people who are like them. When it turns out that within the company and within an industry most of the senior leaders are male, this “likes attract each other” concept means that women CIOs are going to end up having to work harder to build relationships with influential stakeholders and key decision makers.
One of the biggest problems that women CIOs run into over and over again is the simple fact that there are just so few other women available for them to build professional relationships with. The result of this is that women CIOs find themselves getting excluded from male-dominated social gatherings. These are the events where business people get together to talk shop and share ideas in an environment that is informal. The outcome of these gatherings is both trust and camaraderie. Just to make things even more difficult, men and women choose to spend their leisure time differently. The result of this is that men find it easier to mix both play and work using such pastimes as golf. However, women find it harder to find ways to combine these two different ways to spend time.
The result of all of these challenges is that it will take women CIOs longer to achieve influence. Women CIOs find networking hard to do and because of this they tend to have unfavorable views about networking. The challenge that they are facing is that the more different these CIOs are from the key stakeholders that they want to interact with the more they are going to have to go out of their way to interact informally with them. This causes women CIOs to view networking as disingenuous and somewhat calculating. In the end, women CIOs come to view networking as being all about using people for a selfish gain.
How To Break Down Barriers
In order for women CIOs to start to change things, they need to first become a bridge. They can accomplish this by expanding their professional relationships by going to the extra effort of making connections across all of the diverse circles that together make up their personal network. When a woman CIO encounters someone who has information or ideas that could help the people that she works with, it now becomes her obligation to find ways to get this information to them. By doing this she will become known as a source of valuable information and her value to the company will increase.
One of the things that holds women CIOs back is that networking involves investing time in extracurricular activities. The problem with all of this is that women CIOs believe that their choices of extracurricular activities is limited – attending sporting events or playing golf. This is where you need to become creative. You need to leverage what you are interested in and turn it into something that can be more strategic in the workplace. If what you like to do is to go hiking, create a hiking club and lead them on weekend outings. Make sure you publicize the outings and get more people to join. These events will provide you with the networking opportunities that you have been looking for.
Women CIOs need to remember that you are not in this by yourselves. Instead, you need to reach out and join other women’s professional networks. The challenge that women CIOs are dealing with is that more often than not their informal networks are divided up into work and social components. By joining a women’s professional network they can take steps to bring these two worlds together. As a member of one of these networks, a women CIO can take the time to compare notes and reinforce the things that she has learned.
What All Of This Means For You
Achieving the position of CIO is a major accomplishment for any woman. However, in order to keep your career moving forward you need to interact with other senior executives both within your company and without. What this means is that networking is a critical skill to develop. However, women CIOs find networking hard to do and often view it in a negative light.
In the end, it’s women CIO’s misconceptions about the value of networking that ends up holding them back. If they allow themselves to believe that they will never be any good at doing it or that they are just wasting their time then they are not going to be successful. If they allow the voices in their head to speak up and tell them that networking is both political and self-serving, then women CIOs will never commit to making the effort to network successfully.
Networking is a critical skill that every woman CIO needs to have and continue to develop. The only way that a woman CIO is going to rid herself of her negative impression of networking is by trying it out and then learning from the experiences that she has. In the end, what she is going to learn is that developing the skill of networking is one of the best ways for her to invest her time.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that a woman CIO should take the time to join multiple professional women’s networks?
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