Downtown Working

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December 8, 2003 // UPDATED 11:09 am - April 30, 2007
By: Elana Centor
Elana Centor

Call it 'Network Envy'

Ask some women why they haven't achieved the same pay-levels and executive positions as men and chances are they'll mention the "Good Old Boys Network."

Man, oh, man, that is some powerful tool. From many women's point of view, that Good Old Boys Network is the bane of our existence. It's impenetrable. No matter how much we want to figure it out, we won't; and no matter how much we want to duplicate it, we can't.

Yet, the Good Old Boys Network isn't a formal system. Unlike women's networking groups, Good Old Boys don't hold regular meetings or have initiation fees or dues. What they have is an attitude, a tradition, a way of conducting business that seems genetically imprinted in male DNA and thus forever out of reach of the 9-5 working gal.

Call it "Network Envy," but when it comes to power and results, women, like the observer in the infamous diner scene in "When Harry Met Sally" said, "would like what they're having."

But, we can't. And, if you are to believe the experts, we need to let that go. Women, it seems, network differently than men according to Kristine Spangard, managing director for the Downtown E-women's Network that meets monthly at the Marriott in City Center, 30 S. 7th St. Participants pay $35-$55 for lunch with other professional women and to hear a guest speaker.

Men don't need to do lunches through a networking-specific group like E-network. But, Spanguard said, "Women buy rapport, not reports." Plus, the arranged all-female settings help prevent women from receding into the shadows as dominance-seeking men duke it out for the limelight. "Men don't have trouble tooting their own horn," Spanguard said, "Women have trouble with that."

Spangard isn't alone in her belief that women and men network very differently. But her approach is much more, um, palatable than others'.

I recently received a complimentary copy of Diane K. Danielson and Rachel Solar-Tuttle's self-published "Table Talk: The Savvy Girl's Alternative to Networking." The authors contend that women aren't built for networking as we know it. As they write in their introduction: "Let's forgo the traditional 'networking' paradigm being foisted upon us. In fact, let's never say 'networking' again . . . [J]ust the fact that it contains the word 'work' makes it clear that it is about as far from fun as you can imagine."

Yeah, we girls just gotta' have our fun -- especially when we want to expand our businesses or be promoted in the corporate setting.

What do the others suggest as an alternative to networking per se? Well, get back in the kitchen it's time for "Table Talk." In all fairness, the authors may have some valid points -- women do emphasize relationships and cooperation, etc. -- but these are hidden by the authors' suffocating need to write their entire book as a dinner playing metaphor.

I kid you not.

The first section is called "No more Networking -- it's time to Table Talk," and in chapter one you are schooled in "Setting the table." The second chapter even includes a "simple recipe for Table Talk": "1 dash of gossip, 1 tsp. of time management techniques [and] a few heaping cups of a support-system- nurturing relationships for seasoning."

It doesn't stop there. Little, bold boxes of salient facts are entitled "TASTY MORSELS," and include such treats as "When someone asks you to lunch or coffee, before giving a litany of excuses, accept the offer and enjoy a break from the office routine."

While the authors say "it's time to start cooking," perhaps the authors would have been better off if they heeded a tip from Good Old Boy Harry Truman: "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."

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