Professional Networking in pandemic times

The pandemic continues to have a devastating effect on the poorest and most fragile parts of the global population, but it is also a personal tragedy for many and a major disruption for everybody, even those in the most privileged situations.

How disruptions specifically affect the working population varies in different sectors and professions, but it always creates stress and fatigue; in the face of reduced commuting time, working schedules have become longer (especially in the critical health sectors) and much more tiring (screen-time fatigue!).  

The pandemic disruptions also appear to affect women more than men. 

Why? Some surveys (e.g. BGC) point at the increased share of domestic chores that falls disproportionately more onto women, on top of already longer working hours.  Another factor, highlighted by a recent Deloitte Study (Europe and US), points at the increased work pressure, linked to more demands and controls, expectations of long hours / always being available, even some micro-aggressions and exclusion from key decisions. 

A majority of women believe that their male counterparts are not under the same pressure. It is hard to discern what is real and what is perceived – unconscious biases might determine our perception and behaviour, but the main concern from this study is that two-thirds of working women believe that the pandemic will slow down their future career.   The risk is that this belief can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and sabotage their actual chances of resuming a fulfilling career progression.

“I think that social isolation plays a major role in creating this pessimistic outlook, tells us Social Psychologist Prognya Ghosh and it is the #1 challenge that women are facing. Women already tend to spend limited leisure time within a limited circle of family and close friends/colleagues, while men often allow themselves more leisure time and invest a good chunk of it in large professional networks. In times of pandemic, when me-time opportunities shrink and social distancing limits contacts, things get worse for women, while men often have other professionals they can call for a chat, a thought exchange or a tip.”

Professional women, especially those at senior levels in business corporations are currently the ones who most suffer in the current situation. A McKinsey study (Sept. 2020) how 55% of women in senior positions feel exhausted and 40% feel pressured to work more, compared to respectively 40% and 30% of senior-level men.

We asked the innovative Grooa Leadership Academy founder, Laura Lozza: what can be done to help Professional Women overcome this debilitating challenge? Laura has one main suggestion: “Professional Networking is Key, especially now. Some women still hesitate to invest time in networking, thinking that they already have a full schedule. But it is a vicious circle. We need to take time to hear from others and put things in perspective. We often hear of how much we need to train and groom our bodies in lockdown, but we also need to take care of our mind. I encourage all professional women to explore and invest time in joining a networking membership.”

It sounds counter-intuitive: do we really want to add networking (more virtual meetings!) to the already overfilled schedule of exhausted professional women?

“It is absolutely counter-intuitive, confirms Laura Lozza, but let me give you an example. When I was a corporate senior-level executive myself, there were very few of us, international women in a male- and single-culture dominated company. We told the CEO that our business would not succeed unless we unleashed all the talents we had, women and internationals; they were mostly invisible, overworked and under-appreciated. We launched many initiatives, on top of our regular jobs; we got very busy.

One of the most successful initiatives was the creation of professional networks, also inviting other women from other companies. Five years later the succession plan pipeline was filled with diversity. What we learnt was that we all started to work better; organizers and participants, we were investing additional time in these initiatives, but we gained energy, support and perspective, so we were better able to choose and own our choices, to prioritize demands and design our own mandate. That is why now I have started LIS Woman, a Networking and Learning Membership for International Businesswomen who are or aspire to be at executive/board levels; while it is by invitation only, we accept and evaluate nominations (laura@grooa.com). We want to be sure to keep the level of exchanges really useful, high quality … and fun. We also hope to have a LIS Woman in-person event at our Dutch hub in the Eindhoven area, as soon as feasible.” 

It might be counter-intuitive, but it sounds like it is definitely worthwhile for Professional Women to network more. As Wall Street Guru Sallie Krawcheck used to say: “Networking is the #1 unwritten rule of success.” 

This is sponsored content.

Written by Laura Lozza from https://www.grooa.com

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