This is an essay I submitted for the Stanford Graduate School of Business recent Women In Management event . . .
In 2004, my MBA class celebrated its 15th reunion. It had a very different tone from our 10th reunion, at the height of the dot.com mania. By 2004, many of us still were suffering from the dot.com bust and the bravado and energy had changed. In many ways thought it felt that the connections were more genuine and real.
As is typical at the reunion, we had a chance to catch up. And although I saw many of my female friends and we spoke of the last time the families got together, I began to notice that the guys seemed to be reminding one another not only of social engagements but that deal they worked on or that partnership they formed. At first, I thought I was being overly sensitive, but more and more I saw the truth – the men in my class really did work with one another, not just in spotty, one-time ways but regularly and in significant ways.
Was it true that the women did less of this with one another or with the guys? I looked at my own experience, and good news: I had founded Match.com with my classmate Gary (score 1, but Gary had reached out to me). Later, I did a marketing deal with a couple of other classmates (score 2). On a few occasions, I helped classmates with references or referrals. Of course I followed up with any classmate who reached out to me, and on a few occasions, generally in between jobs, I also tapped the GSB network. Although this sounds fine, in my gut I believe the networking was at a lower level than it was among the guys, and while I engaged in some sporadic deal making with my classmates and other women, I may have been at the top end of the curve among professional women.
After the reunion, I checked in with some of my female friends still working outside the home, and we all agreed that we did not reach out to each other professionally. We keep our professional lives separate. We all admitted we could do more networking, but where's the time with the job, the husband, the kids, the time for exercise – and I need to do my book club! Still, we agreed that the lack of serious networking and deal making was one reason we could own for not necessarily achieving the same level of success as many of the men (or having to work so much harder for it). We don't do the deal with each other. We don't hire and seek out one another as much. We need to do the deal. With the guys, for sure, but especially with other women.
Since then I've tried to Do the Deal. Network more. Seek out and share with other women. After the we-need-to-do-the-deal conversation with one of my friends, she made sure her company got the TRUSTe seal and I made sure her organization got the best service possible. I've reached out more and participated in more networking events, many focused on women. Looking to the next election cycle, in California and nationally, I'm committed to supporting female candidates. I'm making sure my board of directors has more gender balance. Achieving what we deserve to achieve isn't going to happen if we don't Do the Deal.
So, DO THE DEAL. Reach out to other women. Form a partnership, buy the service, give the reference, hire the talent and when all things are pretty equal (do they have to be exactly equal?) then support the women. Do the Deal. Tell others they need to do the deal. Make it a cause, make it second nature. The guys do.