Many of Baton Rouge’s most successful businesswomen have one thing in common: a pack of other successful women behind them.
In order to land the best positions, local female professionals acknowledge a need to maintain both wide networks of business contacts and close-knit inner circles of professional female confidantes, a challenge known as “dual networking” most women don’t even realize they’re doing.
Both men and women benefit from casting a wide net of business connections. But recent research from the Harvard Business Review indicates that women who also cultivate an informative circle of well-connected female peers are more likely to secure executive positions with greater authority and higher pay. Within these inner circles, women can swap notes about companies’ attitudes toward women and other private information to ultimately help strengthen their job search, interviewing and negotiation strategies.
“It’s been necessary for me, working in a male-dominated field,” says Norisha Kirts Glover, owner of NRK Construction and incoming president of the Junior League of Baton Rouge. “It’s just making sure that when an opportunity presents itself, you connect women you know with them. They’ll do the same for you.”
The more professionally diverse the group of women, the better. Linda Perez Clark, Kean Miller’s first female managing partner, often turns to her sister, who is in human relations, or a college friend who’s in the insurance business in Houston. That’s not to say she doesn’t also approach men for advice; what’s more important, says Clark, is a solid foundation of trust amongst your inner network, which she usually develops over an informal breakfast.
Other women, wanting to bolster their career prospects or consult with a mentor, find these crucial groups through local organizations like the Women’s Prosperity Network.“There’s some hesitation to solicit input because you’re making yourself vulnerable,” Clark says. “But trust-building is a give-and-take. It’s about making the time to spend together, face-to-face, to create a relationship.”
“We’re as real as can be,” says Ellen McDowell, who leads the organization’s Baton Rouge chapter. “They say women can be catty and push each other down, but you’ve got to find that group that can lift you up, which I find most organizations [in Baton Rouge] do.”