Main image of article Networking for Women in Tech: Tips & Opportunities

The Benefits of Networking Include:

  • Access to career opportunities.
  • Professional support and connections.
  • Exposure to new technologies and more.

In fact, according to research by Zippia, 85 percent of jobs are filled via networking with connections. Some seventy-nine percent of Americans agree that networking plays a vital role in their career progression.

Despite the evidence, many tech professionals who identify as women feel uncomfortable networking or don’t really know how to about it, so they avoid it altogether.

"The difficulty stems from the fact that women tend to be underrepresented in technology and many networking events and after-work activities have traditionally been geared toward men and their interests," acknowledged Julie Elberfeld, a former CIO, now CEO of Women Who Code, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring women to succeed in technology.

Fortunately, you can follow the advice of women who have overcome these obstacles and used networking to achieve remarkable career success. If you're looking for inspiration, here are stories from women in tech who took the plunge into networking.

Start Small

When Elberfeld’s boss made it clear that she needed to forge connections with his peers (i.e, other divisional CIOs) in order for both of them to advance to the next level, she committed to setting a new course.

"He pointed out that I needed to stop eating lunch at my desk every day and become more intentional or overt about networking to move up the ladder," she said.

The question was where to start? One of the habits of highly successful people: they start small.

The key to fruitful networking for career growth and advancement is developing genuine relationships and staying connected with a dozen or fewer people or advisors who have the position power and influence to open doors and help you grow professionally.

Elberfeld recommends inviting one or two senior-level managers to lunch or coffee for the purpose of learning more about their roles, responsibilities and projects. Focusing on a few relationships will build your confidence, keep you motivated and help you slowly expand your circle of contacts.

In-person meetings are best for getting to know someone, establishing trust and assessing whether you click with them or not. So you’ll need to make the effort to initiate conversations with senior leaders and influencers by scheduling virtual lunches and coffee breaks if you work remotely (or come into the office on the same day they do if you have a hybrid schedule).

If you do hit it off with someone, continue to nurture the relationship in an authentic, natural way by inviting them to speak to your team, seeking their advice or inviting them to catch up over coffee or dinner from time to time.

Elberfeld says that you don’t need to spend more than three hours a week on networking, provided you focus on connecting with the right people.

Just Listen

"Forget elevator pitches," advised Tracy Levine, CEO and chief AI officer for QuSmart.AI. "Don’t worry about having to introduce yourself to everyone or give them a pitch." Levine changed the course of her career by mustering the courage to attend a networking event on blockchain, a topic she knew nothing about at the time. She went on to co-author cryptography and quantum security topology patents.

To break the ice, grab an empty chair next to someone, introduce yourself and ask what their reasons are for attending the event. "If you engage in active listening and allow other people to tell you their story, people will start looking you up online," Levine said. Once they know who you are and what your capabilities are, they will be more comfortable introducing you to others and reaching out to discuss opportunities. As you attend more events your network will deepen and expand.

Plus, by listening to the presenters, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about groundbreaking technological advancements, like blockchain and artificial intelligence, which are creating new roles and career paths for women in tech. Many of the attendees are looking for staff or partners to break into these new fields.

Need more help to take that first step? Ask a member of your support network to tag along.

Don’t Go It Alone

"While it is important to have a small network of influencers and senior-level strategic advisors who can help advance your career, don’t overlook the importance of having a strong peer network, too," noted Elberfeld.

A peer network plays a different and important role than career advancers, especially for women in tech. Your peers can act as a support system and a sounding board; they can even be technical or career advisors when you have questions about what skills to learn or whether a lateral move is wise. They can also be the friends you vent to when you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed.

Fortunately, there are more conferences and organizations working to advance women in tech than ever before. These groups provide opportunities for women to network with each other, forge connections, share resources and build their technical skills and knowledge. Connecting with like-minded professionals who understand the unique challenges of being a women in tech can be emotionally gratifying and inspirational.

As Elberfeld and Levine can attest, you never know you will connect with a career catalyst who can open doors to new career paths. You don't have to climb the entire networking staircase to reap the benefits, just take the first step.