British women boost careers through better networking

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BRITISH women in business are gaining much more assistance from networks, the self-help groups dedicated to aid their career climb, than was previously thought, writes Roger Trapp.

They gain more career help than women in other countries and also use the networks to assist their personal development to a greater extent than women elsewhere. But they see a greater need to develop self-confidence and self-projection than women in Europe and the US, according to research carried out at Sundridge Park Management Centre for the European Women's Management Development Network.

Carole Pemberton, who carried out the study, said she did not have an explanation. Further work would be done. But she added: 'Maybe networks are working better than we thought.'

In recent years, networks have grown up in professions ranging from publishing to the law as well as in the City. Most of the 300 or so women who responded to the survey were well educated, already established in their careers and likely to belong to more than one network, Ms Pemberton said.

However, although they seemed confident enough to join at least one of these groups, they still reported difficulties in differentiating between business and social conversations and following up on career contacts. Ms Pemberton, a member of the European group's committee, who works at Sundridge Park in south London, said: 'If UK women who have had some success in their careers are reporting that they lack the self-confidence to make full use of networks, how much truer is this of women just starting out?'

Indeed, she added, it seemed that many women saw them as social networks rather than aids to their careers.

This is in contrast not just to men, but also to American women. According to Helen Solomons, a European Women's Management Development Network representative in the US, women there tend to leave a network if it does not bring swift business gains.

The other key factor stopping women joining networks is lack of time.

Expectations that networking will demand more of them than it provides also tend to put many women off.

Those who were current, or former, network members, however, believed the benefits outweighed the costs.