When Cecilia Pagkalinawan was laid off from her retail-industry job and, at midnight, posted on her LinkedIn profile that she was pondering her next move, it didn’t take long for her network of contacts to jump in with suggestions.
“I immediately received notes of encouragement from peers—some who I have not heard from in years,” she says. “My lunch and breakfast calendar filled up. Everyone wanted to be proactive about networking with me.”
Pagkalinawan used those online connections to help raise $1 million in seed funding to launch her own business, StyleTrek, a website supporting designer entrepreneurs.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always stayed in touch; I’ve always updated my [LinkedIn] profile,” she says. “I don’t think I could have moved forward without having done that.”
But not all women share Pagkalinawan’s networking prowess. If you’d rather hear fingernails on a chalkboard than be forced to get out and schmooze, you’re in good company. But even when the networking is done online? Well, that’s still considered cringe-worthy by women more often than men.
Professional networking site LinkedIn, which boasts more than 100 million members globally, just released a study showing how the sexes differ when it comes to making contacts online.
Using a “savviness” ranking that looked at the ratio of connections men have to connections women have, and at the ratio of male members to female members on the site, the study found that men have the upper hand.
“From a career perspective, I think where networking is concerned there’s some initiative that needs to be taken, and a lot of women fear risking rejection,” Nicole Williams, connection director for LinkedIn and best-selling author of Girl on Top, says. “Women can be fearful of asking for a connection and not being connected back to.”
Williams says that fear can cause women to shy away from making the first move.
“They tend to have a smaller network of people they go a little deeper with, but they aren’t reaching out as far as they could to really advance their careers,” she notes.
Williams says she was surprised to hear from women that when they reach out they are concerned they’ll be perceived as trying to pick up men, rather than as simply connecting with them on a professional level; she adds that women tend to take “no” more personally than men.
“That means they ask for less money and take fewer risks,” she says. “A male will ask for a raise, and when he’s told no, he blames everything external to him, where women tend to think it’s their fault. [So when women are] not connected back, the risk feels more significant.”
The LinkedIn study also looked at the gender divide when it came to specific industries, and it was discovered that even traditionally female businesses, such as cosmetics, are more male savvy when it comes to online networking.
However, in the traditionally male industries of tobacco and ranching, women took the savvy titles.
Williams says this could be because the men and women breaking gender lines in their fields have to work harder to be recognized.
“When you’ve got an industry like tobacco that is predominantly run by men, to succeed women have to use every resource available,” she says. “Conversely, in the cosmetics industry, men are more savvy because they are the minority within that sector, and to make their mark they have to use whatever tools they have available.”
So, how can women become more savvy when it comes to online networking? Krista Canfield, LinkedIn senior manager of corporate communications, says you should have at least 50 connections to take advantage of second- and third-tier connections.