The Power of Social Gathering
Women in business face greater professional isolation, continue to encounter sexual harassment, and are promoted more slowly than men in comparable situations. These experiences have helped fuel a rise in women's entrepreneurship. Parallel growth has occurred in the development of virtual mentoring and networking programs targeting women, powered by social media.
Social media is a collection of internet based applications designed to emphasize participation, connectivity, information sharing and collaboration. These technologies transitioned the emphasis of the internet from consumption towards interactivity. Women have seemingly taken advantage of this growing technology and created networks that begin online and may find its way toward offline (real life) connectedness.
Is this style of social gathering helping women grow their confidence, businesses and increase wealth?
Women in leadership seek out methods to support and encourage others. A study of approximately half a million workers conducted by University of Virginia economist Amalia Miller and her co-author, Astrid Kunze, found where greater numbers of women held higher ranking positions, the rate of promotion for females in lower levels increased. They identified a pattern: an increased percentage of women among leadership decreases the time to promotion for women in lower ranks.
Talent management experts, Development Dimensions International, found that while nearly 80% of women in senior roles had served as formal mentors, few of them had mentors of their own. According to DDI, women are willing mentors, other women are simply not seeking them out. To combat this, there are networks like CERESA, eMentor, and Passport to Manhood & Smart Girl Social Media Leadership Summits that seek to provide an initial connection via technology (which may be less intimidating) that blossom into authentic bonds.
While digital technological advancement has arguably improved quality of life in contemporary times, there are concerns around how these advances may be impacting society and authentic relationships. What we must not do is create bias, under-explore or fail to consider individuals’ understandings of the significance of technological influence in intimate relationships. Millennial young adults—who have come of age in a period of rapid technological advancement—are especially pertinent in this regard. Millennials’ accounts can help reveal how young women navigate, and make sense of, the cultural tensions that are manifesting in their professional relationships and private life due to rapid social and technological change.
It is clear, social media based networking and mentoring programs are valuable as they can eliminate barriers information gathering and provide access to resources. For women entrepreneurs, the use of social media and the internet can provide structured pattens of interaction with diverse groups rather than isolated individual actors. These gatherings, Twitter chats, LinkedIn or Facebook groups, or custom solutions add incredible value as they offer more opportunities to the members in comparison to those who approach relationships unilaterally. These horizontal networks provide:
- social capital and legitimacy;
- counseling and mentorship;
- access to information and sources of capital; and
- friendship and collaboration.
Incredibly, researchers have found that not only do internet based social gatherings increase cooperation, it stimulates coopetition. Coopetition is the collaboration between directly competing companies. Consider how powerful a social network must be that can transition supposed “queen bees” into cooperating members of a hive. This is the power of social networking and social media. This is the process of social gatherings, and this is how women will help one another succeed.