Updated Thu, Jun 6, 2013 11:10 am
“Synchronicity” is the term psychologist Karl Jung coined to describe those times when meaningful coincidences seem to bring you what you need. When synchronistic events pile up, Jung said, it's as though you're being supported by an unseen helper.
I can roughly graph the times in my career when synchronicity was in full flow. From my early job as Ohio University's director of women’s affairs, through my years as a Washington lawyer, lobbyist and executive, to my decade as coach and consultant, I've enjoyed periods of peak synchronicity. In these times opportunities abound, resources appear when I need them, and life feels abundant.
I also can create another graph of my 40+ career years. This one measures the intensity of my networking with other women. If I compare the two lines – one for career synchronicity and the other for Old Girl networking – they seem to match. My graphs illustrate that the most exciting, productive years aren’t necessarily the ones when I’ve worked the hardest or been the most disciplined. What often seems to trigger the times of great flow is the energy I put into networking, particularly with other women.
Journalist Pamela Ryckman started noticing women of all ages harnessing the power of a new breed of professional networks. Intrigued by the trend, she began writing about a wide mix of women's dining clubs and other groups, particularly in New York and California. She followed the trail to more cities and the result is her new book, Stiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business.
"I started to discover dinner groups and salons and coworking and networking circles in major cities across the United States," Ryckman says. "In almost every case, the women thought they were alone in assembling clusters of dear, smart girlfriends who met regularly to learn and share." But in fact there are so many groups it's starting to look like a movement.
I don't think the phenomenon of women's support circles is as new as Ryckman suggests, but I enjoyed her description of how the tide of female power groups is rising. "They talk nonstop about business. And while their companies span the industries – from finance to real estate to fashion to art – they're almost all Web-based." But "it's not like they're all work and no play…Never has the Women's Movement felt less like a jaundiced faction and more like a party."
Tens of thousands of professional women are meeting regularly, reaching across generational and institutional lines, and sharing information, advice and contacts. And the energy and excitement they share seems contagious. Ryckman describes woman after woman whose career takes off, with one synchronistic opportunity after another, as a result of her Stiletto Network.
It's worth noting that these groups are not anti-man. "Networks are meant to extend one's scope, not restrict it," Ryckman says. "Savvy gals may unite on occasion, but they don't cut themselves off from the dudes." Women want to help each other build rich networks, including with powerful men.
The circles exist to provide peer-to-peer support and don't welcome just anybody. Some mentioned by Ryckman have membership policies sounding perhaps too much like the restrictive clubs that served the Old Boy Network. "For Stiletto Networks to be relevant and desirable, they must be rooted in shared experience and true sympathy – which means they must have some form of exclusivity."
What makes the new groups particularly interesting is the absence of hierarchy and emphasis on collaboration across industries and skills sets. "The horizontal networks women have built over time just happen to be the same networks society now wants and needs," Ryckman says. They are about being "collegial, collaborative, checking your ego at the door, and trying to work on solutions."
The circles are so varied that your experience may not align with Ryckman's account of how the women's network works. But if you're a woman, I bet her book will make you want to start a group, or tweak the one you already love so it can foster even more career synchronicity.
Ryckman's tips for starting a Stiletto Network include:
- Think diversity. Don't just round up your best buddies. Draw women with diverse skills, in different fields.
- Believe in magic. Don't worry much about the goals or agendas. "If you get dynamic ladies talking or walking or drinking, exciting things will happen."
- Use technology to facilitate. After the event, share information and continue the conversation through email and social media.
- Systemize "asks and offers." Women may have trouble asking for help. A process for making requests or offering assistance makes groups more effective.
If you're part of a Stiletto Network, or want to create one, I'd love to hear about it.
Beverly Jones is an alum of Ohio University. Her column appears at Clearways Consulting LLC. Republshed with permission. For archives and additional content, visit the Clearways Consulting website.