I honestly don’t know what I would do without my networks. For most of my life I have banded together with other women and men to bring about positive change. Yet for all the good we have done, I feel I have gained much more than I have given. And I have to say, women are the greatest Yellow Pages resource ever. If you want to find something, a place, a service or some good advice, whom will you ask? A woman, of course! If you like what she is reading, or wearing, or working to change, a woman is happy to tell you all about it. Most women will open up to the universe and help just about anyone.
Here’s six reasons why you need to embrace networking
- Networking is in our nature. Researchers have theorized — and we know from our own experience — that when the going gets tough, women “tend and befriend.” That’s in contrast to the traditional fight or flight response more often seen in men. Our families are our first and often strongest networks. It’s where we learn how to be good mothers, wives and friends. But, families may be less helpful with jobs, or career moves, or investing, or health care. Where can the average woman honestly share her feelings and find answers to her hard questions? Her networks! If she has constructed them well, they will contain mentors and role models to offer advice on career, education, parenting or any other life skill.
- It’s good for our health. Do social ties really improve health? Yes, studies suggest social contact results in fewer colds and flu, longer life, better survival from diseases. Some say loneliness is as harmful as tobacco and that we would benefit from more companionship even if it reduces our income.
- There’s strength in numbers. Most networks form around a purpose. My Leading Women co-author Cheryl Benton points to the gains feminists brought to us, and in fact, you and I would not be able to own property, get an education, hold a job or vote if women had not banded together to gain those rights. Networks of like-minded women are priceless and I cherish several. My Psyche Sisters, for example, is a group of fellow psychologists who bonded when we were earning our doctoral degrees. We started out with the shared goal of professional development and have developed strong personal relationships along the way.
- Sharing makes any load lighter. We all have bad days when we’d like to crawl in a hole, but we can’t allow poor self-esteem, depression, grief, shame or embarrassment cut us off from the joy of human relationships. Building networks of mutual support BEFORE you need them means they will be there for you in a time of need. I have been a therapist for over half of my life and have found women will love and care freely for others, but they are not so caring of themselves. Women often have a hard time asking for and accepting help, but it grows naturally out of a trusted network, and the person you once helped will LOVE an opportunity to return the favor.
- Our communities NEED us to network. Together we can do so much more than anyone can do alone. My mission is to help build a sisterhood of women helping women, and I see other women doing this everywhere I travel. We serve on boards, build our careers, support philanthropies, nurture our families and mentor more and more women. I’m connected to all these women through my networks. My Leading Women contributing author Lois Phillips points out that a woman’s connections to her networks play a huge role in her ability to raise money, increasingly the pathway to political power.
- Networking is fun. I believe we are put here on earth to experience joy and to help each other. Some of the most fun I’ve had in my life has been “girl time.” Men are great (they are useful for so many things!) but let’s face it: no one gets you like your girlfriends.
I believe that the hand that rocks the cradle is destined to help rule the world, and to do that we must reach out to clasp another hand. My Leading Women contributing author Rebecca Tinsley named her foundation “Network for Africa,” which tells you a lot about her approach.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller
What steps will you take today to reach out, to help and be helped by another woman?
Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is an author of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life and urges women to connect to help each other create a better world. As a clinical psychologist, motivational speaker and women empowerment expert, O’Reilly helps women create the satisfying and purposeful lives they want to benefit themselves, their families and their communities. To accomplish this, she devotes her energies to fulfilling the mission of the Women Connect4Good, Inc. foundation, which benefits from her writing and speaking services. O’Reilly is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed inspiring women for online podcasts available on her website.