Working Women’s Secret Weapon: Other Women

To hell with old-boy networks. Stiletto networks are changing the way to do business

by Laura Sinberg
suzy ginsburg image
Suzy Ginsburg

More: You say these groups have exploded in the past several years. Why so?
P.M.: In the book I describe it as the result of both evolution and revolution. The evolution is that there are enough women in positions of power or influence, earning their own wealth, to really make a difference for other women in their careers. When you couple that with the revolution that’s happening in technology, this becomes an explosion. You have a lot of highly engaged women who are redefining the system.

More: Women used to be protective of their contacts, and often downright unwilling to share them. Why has that changed?
P.M.: Two reasons: I think they figured out something that men have long known, which is that it raises your stock to be the connector. If you are the person who is constantly linking people up, you benefit as well. I don’t think these women did it with Machiavellian intent. But the networking has in fact made them more valuable in their jobs and at what they do. Also, women have finally realized that we’re so much stronger together than we are alone. There’s real power in that collective voice.

More: What has been the impact of these groups?
P.M.: I have charted billions of dollars in transactions and corporate board fees attained and promotions landed and companies founded and funded as a result as these stiletto networks. But I tell everybody that it’s a love story disguised as a business story. This is a powerful nationwide movement but at its heart it’s about female friendship. There is a massive money trail, but the friendships are not by nature transactional. They bleed into every area of life. These women are close friends.

More: So the impact of stiletto networks isn’t confined to the business world.
P.M.: Right. These women have looped each other into each other’s causes. It’s not just what I can do for me or even what I can do for my friend. It’s what we can do together for the world. A lot of these women are thinking about legacy. I’ve charted unprecedented amounts of women’s wealth channeled toward charities that benefit women and girls and political candidates who represent women’s interests. So this isn’t just changing the face of business. We are looking at a national social overhaul.

When you suddenly have women sitting on influential nonprofit boards and controlling lots of money, that makes them more powerful in business, too. All these different arenas are coming together. 

More: Why do you think so many members of stiletto networks describe the groups as magical or life changing?
P.M.: In the book I talk a lot about wealthy or accomplished or high-powered women, but they weren’t wealthy or accomplished when they started these groups. They credit their stiletto networks with giving them courage and facilitating their success. That’s life changing.

More: What are some tips for women looking to create their own stiletto networks?
P.M.: First, you don’t have to be wealthy or famous or fabulous to create a network, and you need not begin with any connections. Being young is no deterrent; the earlier in life women start groups, I found, the tighter and stronger the groups become, because they go through life events together. Second, think about diversity. These shouldn’t be groups of best buddies or employees all from the same companies. The most effective groups tend to draw women with diverse skills from a variety of industries because they are introducing women who might not otherwise meet. As a result, they keep members fresh, expand their horizons and increase their spheres of influence.

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