Do women have to be more ‘masculine’ to network well?

Being a woman in academia is especially tough. In such a male-dominated field women need to come together to support each other and acknowledge openly the different challenges that they face.

However, the message that women often get as they climb the career ladder is that they have to be more like the men. This is obviously frustrating advice. I don’t want to be a man! I especially don’t want to be aggressive, pushy and ‘alpha’ – the qualities that we often associate with a toxic image of masculinity.

It is definitely not necessary to be someone that you are not in order to network well. Nobody has to be aggressive in order to network well. In fact, if you work on having a more authentic style of networking showing who you really are you will be more successful at networking. If you come across as authentic you will engage others better and develop lasting professional relationships.

Yesterday I delivered a ‘Networking for career success’ masterclass for the Women in Vision UK group. Women in Vision was started by several clinical academics at UCL with the aim of bringing together all women working in vision healthcare and/or research.

Of course the issue of maintaining authenticity and integrity came up during the masterclass and the relief was palpable when we spoke about the fact that you don’t need to be more ‘masculine’ and toxic in order to be a great networker. There are different styles of networking and different measures of networking success too. The most important thing is to be authentic.