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Your Network Is Your Net Worth

Use social capital to climb the ladder of success.

Vanessa Montañez
Insider
Dr. Vanessa Montañez
A group of women professionals networking.

Have you ever heard of the saying, "Your network is your net worth?" 

This is a common saying that many of us take for granted because we do not feel it applies to us as women. I firmly believe that using social capital is critical for women's career success. In a male-dominated work environment, women tend to have fewer and weaker connections than men in the dominant coalitions that provide essential resources and opportunities for top executive positions.

While men use "networking, ingratiation, and self-promotion strategies" (Val Singh et al. 77) to further their careers, women, to their detriment, "prefer to rely on extra high performance and commitment for visibility to their seniors" (Val Singh et al. 77). Women need to cultivate relationships at work and use social capital to climb the ladder of success.
Social capital has gained popularity in business and leadership for the past few decades. Using social capital provides a return on investment through social relations. In addition, there is a benefit from networks or belonging to a membership of sorts. Social networks are valuable to those who belong to them because they provide a return on investment. Roberts (2013) explained,

 "High levels of social capital have been shown to have a positive impact on multiple facets of organizational life, including individual career success, compensation and placement, employee recruitment and retention, team effectiveness, interdepartmental resource exchange, product innovation, and entrepreneurship, as well as external relationships with suppliers, regional production networks and other firms" (Roberts 54).

Social capital is made up of nodes connected by a set of ties. Nodes are connected by ties. This creates a network between two individuals.  

As more individuals convene, the network expands. Social capital is a structure of how leaders and followers interact and how relationships evolve within the individuals. Some structures are betters than others. The ideal structure of social capital is open and diverse. 

Within the social capital structure, the network or group must be an open platform where anyone can join. For example, a woman who wishes to join an organization, network, or group to grow her social capital should be allowed to join. Also, the individual or members of the network should be diverse, from different age groups, ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds. A diverse organization provides the diversity of thought and ideas. 

Where the individuals meet or connect is called a network. The network is the structure of social capital. A network is a group of interconnected individuals. Social interaction is essential to an individual because the greater the number of contacts, the more likely the individual network grows. Individuals can use their networks for personal or professional use, gain access to information, create awareness, influence, or possibly find employment. Social networks are an ongoing process and "provide another avenue for turning resources into capital" (Lin 192). Networks take time to cultivate and grow trust. Keele (1986) defined networks as being composed of weak social ties, exchanging information, and providing support. 

Networks enhance the social position and contacts of the individual based on their position and influence. Furthermore, there is a common phrase, "it is not what you know, but whom you know." The power of networking and building one's social capital can create benefits. For instance, networks support women's integration into a male-dominated culture while giving them an opportunity for shared powers and confidence to advocate and act for organizational change. 

ERGs & Masterminds

Women must join organizations to grow their networks, contacts, and career advancements. For those women that work in large companies, I encourage you to join a business resource group (BRG) or employee resource group (ERG). Employee resources groups are an employee-led group that fosters inclusivity and builds internal community. Typically, ERG provides personal and professional support to its members. ERGs are meant to be supportive rather than exclusive. 

Most ERGs are based on volunteers and support organizers with opportunities to create events, educational classes, and networking. For example, you are a woman loan officer who just started at a large bank. The bank has several thousand employees whom you do not know. You only have met your team of ten but not the other departments of the bank. You are a small fish in the immense ocean. How do you venture out safely to meet other team members? You join the women's ERG. You want to meet other women team members from the bank. Not only do you meet other like-minded professional women but you potential new clients. As you grow your lending career, you must grow your networks.   Joining an ERG is one solution to meeting others in your organization.

Another option, if you work for a small organization and do not have the resources, is to start your mastermind group of women. A mastermind group is a term coined by the infamous Napoleon Hill. Creating a mastermind group comprises people (usually six to eight) who come together regularly– weekly, biweekly, and monthly to share ideas, thoughts, information, resources, feedback, and contacts. Imagine creating a loose group of leaders you meet regularly for problem-solving, career advancement, brainstorming, networking, or motivating each other, holding each other accountable, and taking action for your goals. 

A mastermind group can be composed of people in your industry or profession – or individuals from different walks of life. The choice is yours – just ensure the group is diverse in thoughts and individuals.   It can focus on business, personal issues, or both. Nevertheless, for the mastermind group to be influential, those in the group need to be honest and comfortable enough to receive feedback for growth to develop. Therefore, I encourage you to join an ERG or Mastermind group to further your career.  

Validate Your Network

Networks are at the core of social capital–leaders grow their networks because of their relationships with others. Beyond the size of the network, one needs to validate the quality and structure of the network. First is the network open, which means there is structural diversity in the network where the members do not all know each other. Second, networks need to be diverse. Wilburn and Cullen-Lester explained that "Much of the work of leadership involves working across vertical, horizontal, stakeholder, demographic, and geographic boundaries for a group and organizational success" (Center for Creative Leadership et al. 3). Next, networks are profound and leaders who build profound and quality networks are more likely to share and exchange information, resources, and services with actors from varied backgrounds. Finally, women use networking as a tool to grow their social capital.

Research shows that those with more connections and networks get more job opportunities. As a result, they get promoted faster, making more money. They are seen as top talent within their organizations. However, it can be challenging for women to network. Networking is vital for a woman to participate in. In networks, the exchange of information, collaboration, development alliances, attainment of knowledge, visibility, and encouragement are part of a network's dynamics. (Margaret Linehan and Hugh Scullion) 

However, some networks are challenging to penetrate. "Women who have been largely excluded from the informal network, which traditionally composed of men, cite the existence of the 'old boy' network as a primary reason why women are ignored and indeed discouraged from seeking top management positions" (Margaret Linehan and Hugh Scullion 34) Women traditionally have been excluded from male outings, which are part of the “old boy” networks, such as golfing, sports activities, hunting, fishing, cigar-smoking, athletic clubs, adult clubs, and drinking. "The negative effects of these covert barriers included blocked promotions and career development, discrimination, occupational stress, and lower salaries" (Margaret Linehan & Hugh Scullion, 2008, p. 35). 

Not all exclusions are because of the “old boy” networks. According to Parker and Welch (2013), women were less likely to connect with people with power and authority. Women have fewer connections and networks because they are less assimilated in male-dominated networks where men are in closely held positions of command and influence. "Even where women have few conflicts, they can be hampered in the acquisition of social capital through exclusions from informal male networks"(Fitzsimmons and Callan 361). 

Domestic Restraints

Many constraints of women are also based on additional domestic commitments that interfere when networking events takes place. Most networking events occur after working hours, and some women do not have the time to socialize and attend networking events. "Women may not have the same access to social networks as men, Eagly and Carli theorize, because they take on a disproportionate amount of family duties" (Weiss 5). Some findings suggested that as female networks become more robust and have more power, more females will reach senior positions with their organizations. 
One's network is one of the most competitive tools for career advancements and breaking the glass ceiling. As women, we need to attend networking events that advance our careers.  Who is attending?  What is the funtion or event about?  What is your purpose for attending?  Is there someone one you would like to meet?  Is the speaker or event relevant to your career?  Successful women also put a lot more structure in their day, being proactive with their time, calls, events, and goals.  For instance, they set aside time for reflection.  That’s when you are envisioning new ideas, goals, and managing your networks and reaching out to relationships that you may have lost contact with.  Maintaining authentic relationships is key as your networks grows.  Remember your network is your networth!


Center for Creative Leadership, et al. A Leader’s Network: How to Help Your Talent Invest in the Right Relationships at the Right Time. Center for Creative Leadership, May 2014. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.35613/ccl.2014.1056.

Fitzsimmons, Terrance W., and Victor J. Callan. “CEO Selection: A Capital Perspective.” The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 5, 5, Oct. 2016, pp. 765–87. ScienceDirect, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2016.05.001.

Lin, Nan. Social Capital : A Theory of Social Structure and Action. Cambridge University Press, 2001. EBSCOhost, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=sso&db=nlebk&AN=74320&site=eds-live&scope=site&custid=s8865349.

Margaret Linehan and Hugh Scullion. “The Development of Female Global Managers: The Role of Mentoring and Networking.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 83, no. 1, 1, 2008, p. 29. EBSCOhost, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9657-0.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine November 2022 issue.
Vanessa Montañez
Dr. Vanessa Montañez

Dr. Vanessa Montañez is the CEO and Co-founder of LeadHER Talks, a forum to enrich, empower, and educate women and a Mortgage LeadHER.

Published on
Nov 21, 2022
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