Networking… Ladies, You’re Doing it All Wrong

As published on Forbes.com on May 28, 2013.

What motivated me to join the editorial team of Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future, co-authored by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya, was the real need for women to hear true stories about how other women strategized in their careers and rose to the top. One of the topics that has particularly hit home is the need to attend conferences and seek out mentors.

In my first job out of college as a branding consultant, to help our clients, we would look for ‘analogs,’ or how companies in different industries had overcome and tackled problems similar to those of our patrons in innovative ways. In my career, I search for ‘personal’ analogs, or people who have achieved goals similar to my own in order to study and understand their strategy and path to reach success. Repeatedly our ambassadors in Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future have spoken about how conferences have helped them find role models and mentors within their fields. Unfortunately, they also spoke of how too few women are taking advantage of these opportunities.

“For the first time in my life I went to the bathroom and noticed a big line outside the men’s room… I got into the lady’s room and found two girls in there, we all had the same reaction,” says Danielle Newman, founder of StartupByte, about her experience at Startup Weekend: “We were laughing hysterically that we were the only girls, a total of 4 girls participating in the event with about 80 men.”

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Forbes_Networking

Hamburg Casino Esplanade

The casino is located across from Planten um Blamen park. When you pop up from the metro its vertical stature contrasts the green of the park. The outside is rather plain, except for overbearing columns and a touch of red.

Inside feels like the entrance to a hotel, coats checked to the left. Up the elevator you enter a sterile room: rough red carpet, parent’s basement (cheap attempt at extravagance) bar, people dressed in varying formality, a surprising lack of floozies, and equally spaced tables. A central hallway leads to the back where you can pick up chips from a bank cashier-style counter with two blonds sitting behind thick glass.

Most people are serious. One man, flat out of chips, throws down 500 Euros on the table with a grin. Consistently betting 150 Euros on 0, 7, and 36, he reminds me of a giant slug belching green 50 Euro pellets. He tells me he likes the color of my skirt, petting my hip, as if his overindulgence has bought him the right. Some people put down money and then, not even watching their play, run to another table as if luck has a dog whistle. Watching provides no excitement for jaded eyes.

The woman next to me is edged on by the staff, wanting to win for him as he repeats, “I know you will win this time, OK next time, next time.” On the way out, someone sees their lucky number win, “Oh, I knew I should have played one more time.” They think they can control luck despite the knowledge that odds are stacked against them.