Ambitious individuals have long been encouraged to use networking as one tool to get ahead in their careers. For women, business networking can be especially helpful. “Done right, networking lets women identify role models, find mentors and sponsors, and expand their business opportunities,” according to Nancy Ham, CEO of healthcare platform WebPT, writing in Entrepreneur. “As they rise in their careers, they can also pay it forward by helping others coming up behind them.”
The Tri-Valley has a proud history of women working together to support mutual goals. In 1908, for example, a group of prominent Pleasanton women established the Women’s Improvement Club, according to the book Pleasanton, California: A Brief History by Ken MacLennan. Club members worked to lobby local government for improvements in sanitation, to preserve existing trees as well as plant more, and to raise funds for its efforts. The club’s signature achievement, according to MacLennan, was the successful campaign to build a new town hall and library for the city.
Clearly, members of the Women’s Improvement Club understood the value of networking, even if no one used that word at the time. The choices for networking as a woman in 1908 were limited, indeed. Today, there are many networking options for those who want to advance their careers or other goals.
Experts recommend the value of networking for women via women-specific groups as well as other approaches. Those approaches include networking within the specific organization where one is employed, networking within local and regional organizations, and networking within industry-specific groups. The East Bay Economic Development Alliance, for example, is one regional group that accepts individual memberships and provides networking opportunities as part of its larger goal of working to improve the area. The East Bay Bio Network is an example of industry-specific networking opportunities, as it brings together professionals in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
Several Tri-Valley organizations help professionals connect to their female peers. Some are broadly based, while others focus on a particular industry. The Business Women’s Community Greater Tri-Valley, Dublin Chapter, for example, has monthly meetings (currently via videoconferencing) and other events to educate its members. The group of businesswomen help each other grow within the community via networking and referrals. Its mission is to provide a supportive environment in which members can collaborate.
The Women in Manufacturing Association (WiM) is the only national trade association dedicated to providing year-round support to women who have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry. WiM members benefit from exclusive access to educational programming, networking opportunities, bimonthly webinars, a customized job board, a robust searchable directory, and more, according to the group. The WiM Northern California Chapter has an active base of members in the East Bay thanks to the regional manufacturing so important to the Tri-Valley economy.
The East Bay chapter of Association for Women in Science (AWIS) provides a forum for networking and creating a supportive community, developing member career and personal skills, enhancing personal empowerment, and mentoring students of all levels. "Volunteering at this chapter helped me build a professional network in my new home, enhance my leadership skills, and serve the community of fellow women in science by providing opportunities for career and professional development," says Sara Farahmand, a scientist and consumer product safety expert who manages public relations for the local group.
The Women's Council of Realtors of Alameda County is another example of an industry-focused organization. According to the national group, “The Council exists today because its 80-year history and legacy is much more significant than ‘an organization of women’. It is the business leadership skills the Council provides that has positioned the Council as a leader for the industry, for organized real estate, and for political action committees.”
Overall, women network less than men, according to the 2018 Women in the Workplace report by LeanIn.org and McKinsey. Women may prefer to skip networking for a variety of reasons, as noted by Karen Wickre, Bay Area author of Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert's Guide to Making Connections That Count.
“People often fall into the trap of thinking they’re bothering people when they’re seeking advice or introductions,” says Wickre, whose book offers tips that make networking easier. “All of us will need guidance or a lead from someone else at various points in life. More often than not, useful information is going to come from someone you don’t already know. So we all get to take turns asking, and receiving. Most of us like to be asked for help or advice. Humans want to help one another, given a chance.”
Those new to networking can start by connecting with people they already know, however loose the connection, and make a plan, according to Wickre, who also teaches a Udemy course on networking. That plan could be as simple as sending an email to someone they like with a link to a topic of mutual interest or suggesting a coffee date. Wickre’s model for networking is based on developing and nurturing connections with individuals one truly likes, a kind of business-oriented mutual aid society.
That approach has deep roots in the Tri-Valley, as author MacLennan notes in his book. “By the first decade of the twentieth century, social activism had long been accepted as a suitable outlet for the energies of respectable women, even at a time when the vast majority of American women were not allowed to vote. Women were prominent in the temperance movement, labor reform and consumer protection, good-government activism, promotion of education, and many other movements to improve American society and culture. Indeed, Pleasanton had an excellent role model in Phoebe Hearst, whose efforts and philanthropy on behalf of educational causes were world renowned.”
Jesse Giambroni Cambra may not be world renowned but perhaps should be as a model of accomplishment and marker of the importance of fostering environments that facilitate opportunities for women to succeed. Cambra, who died in 2008, was the first woman to receive a degree from the Berkeley Department of Civil Engineering and the first female licensed engineer in the state of California. The East Bay native, who spent much of her career working for Alameda County, was a pioneer in the development of California’s transportation systems, according to the Encyclopedia of World Scientists. As the nation observes Women’s History Month, the region can celebrate its rich heritage of professional women such as Cambra as well as look forward to the many accomplishments of the future that will come from similarly industrious and dedicated Tri-Valley women.
For more information about Pleasanton, California: A Brief History, please visit www.museumonmain.org/store/p28/Pleasanton%2C_California%3A_A_Brief_History.html.
For more information about the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, please visit www.eastbayeda.org.
For more information about East Bay Bio Network, please visit www.meetup.com/East-Bay-Bio-Network.
For more information about Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert's Guide to Making Connections That Count, please visit www.karenwickre.com/book.
For more information about the Business Women’s Community Greater Tri-Valley, Dublin Chapter, please visit www.meetup.com/Dublin-Women-Entrepreneurs-Meetup.
For more information about the local chapter of the Women in Manufacturing Association, please visit www.womeninmanufacturing.org/wim-northern-california.
For more information about the Women's Council of Realtors of Alameda County, please visit www.wcr.org/network-sites/california/alameda-county.
For more information about the East Bay chapter of Association for Women in Science, please visit ebawis.org.