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Monday, May 22, 2000
Society traditionally offers men more opportunities to network and develop business contacts. Whether it's on the golf course or in the locker room, it's easier for men to connect. So how can women break down the barriers of networking and develop strategic connections of their own?
Anna Nardone, founder and president of The Tidings Corporation and Leading Ladies takes your questions and comments on ways to facilitate professional and personal connections.
Nardone, a Wellesley College graduate, created The Tidings Corporation and Leading Ladies to provide women the opportunity to meet and network for the purpose of enhancing their business, careers and lives.
You may submit questions for Anna Nardone in advance or anytime during the Live Online hour.
Anna Nardone: Hi. Thank you for joining me for a discussion on women and networking. I look forward to hearing from you. Lets have a fun and informative conversation.
Washington, DC: Should women have two different networking strategies, i.e., one for dealing with other women and one for dealing with men? If so, what do you suggest is the best way for a woman to network with the two sexes?
Anna Nardone: Interesting question. First, networking is networking regardless of gender.
The whole purpose of networking is to establish connections and develop relationships. When developing a networking strategy, it is important to begin with your goal in mind. Why are you networking? Is it for sales? A new job? Friends? What is it that you want to accomplish? Then inorder to achieve your goal, you must place yourself in a variety of situations that will give you the opportunity to meet people who may help you achieve that goal.
Of course, you want to start with the traditional places, such as organizations focused on the industry or target market you are trying to break into; events focused on your market; etc. Also, since networking is about building relationships, think about the things you enjoy. Do you like to volunteer your time? Do you like sports? Are you in a book club? Whatever it is, these are great places to meet people, establish connections and if you think there is someone there who you may do business with now or in the future that's networking.
Ok. Regarding networking with women vs. men. As I said, I do not think that you should have a different strategy; however, you might have different techniques when dealing with men vs. women. When you are networking with women, the gender issue is completely eliminated. When you are networking with men there are many things to keep in mind. Number one, be your self. Be confident and assertive, but do not be aggressive. Also, know that you are going to have to really prove yourself most of the time when dealing with men. Yes, each person is an individual, but men overall still view women as subordinate. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to demonstrate our abilities, talents. Prove that you are the best and you will succeed.
Bethesda, MD: Don't you think that the people network has changed? I'm a woman and I have no problem networking with men. In fact, I use my gender to my advantage. Sure, I had to learn how to play golf, but believe me, it's worth it. Men like to do business with people they like and feel relaxed with. I'm in sales, and it's never been a problem for me. Why do you suppose it's so difficult for other women to make business contacts?
Anna Nardone: I absolutely agree with you. People do business with people. We do business with those we feel comfortable with regardless of their gender. I think that you have a distinct advantage, since you are in sales. I am assuming that you are more inclined to naturally connect with people. The nature of your business is to meet people. Women who are not use to "selling" formally, if you will, are not as familiar with how to qualify people for potential business. Also, I think that many women have not found a place where they feel comfortable to "learn how to network."
Washington, DC: Thank you, Ms. Nardone for this timely discussion.
Why are women traditionally viewed as being so nasty to each other in a workplace setting? Do you find that this has changed over time?
Anna Nardone: You are very welcome! I am thrilled that you have joined us. Yes, I absolutely think this has changed and I am a huge advocate along with many other women that women do help women.
With the women's movement there came a lot of challeges. Women were often the only one out there. They were the tokens. Can you think back to when we weren't allowed to play sports? It has not even been that long that we have been able to vote. Since women were out there beating the bushing, trying desperately to break through the tremendous barriers that existed, they had to compete against everyone, men and women. I think this is what created the notion that women don't help women. Back stabbing and nasty behavior happens between men, between women and men and between women.
I think that more and more we are seeing women work collaboratively. With the proliferation of career opportunities and the advancements of women, we are realizing that we must help one another. We are a great resource for one another. And with the barriers that still exist, we must unify ourselves.
Washington DC: I find it very difficult for women to network even at women's networking events. It seems like everyone winds up standing around, staring at eachother, or talking about clothes. Women don't know how to network! What do you do at your events that's different from the traditional female mixers?
Anna Nardone: Networking can be a daunting experience. With our Leading Ladies group, I try very hard to create an atmosphere that is comfortable. A place where women feel free to converse with one another. I send the message very clearly to my members, be yourself. Be your best self and you will never go wrong. Enjoy meeting people. Be sincere about your interest in what they do. I try to integrate different techniques that will help facilitate conversation about lots of subjects and iterests other than your business. Remember, people do business with people.
Also, people love stories. Ask if they have ever travelled to Italy or where they have travelled. Share a story of your favorite place to vacation or a dream place to visit. Talk about a lot of things first. Then talk about business.
Washington, DC: Hi, Anna!
Between work and family, I sometimes feel like I don't have enough hours in the day. Why is it important for women to network?
Anna Nardone: Ah yes. Time. Who has enough time. I was just discussing this very topic with my Dad on Saturday night. He, too, is a business owner. He said you just do it. You just make it work.
I don't have a family or children of my own, so I cannot relate exactly to your situation. However, my business is like having a child.
It is very important to network with women because it can help you expedite your plans or achieve your goals a lot faster. In addition to building relationships, networking is about "getting the word out" about what you do. How can you sell your services if no one knows what you do. Also, networking is about gathering information. It is essential to expand your knowledge base and your sphere of influence. You never know who knows who or who knows what information.
For example, if you want to get into a certain company. Ask your friends, colleagues, associates, people you meet if they know anyone at that company. You could be spending hours trying to figure out who the decision maker is, while all along your next door neighbor is best buds with the CEO. Again, who knows? A cliche that one of my sales managers use to say is: "If you don't ask, you don't get." Also, a key thing to remember is: Recognize vs. Recall. Give people something to spur a thought. For example, ask, "Do you know anyone who works at x company?" You are more likely to get a response.
Fairfax, Va: I am a consultant and I wanted to know how can I network and meet more professional IT consultants or market myself in the IT Tech field?
Anna Nardone: Ok. First, get involved with IT groups such as Women in Technology, DC Web Women, Netpreneurs, Potomac Knowlegeway, etc. Second, get involved with your local chamber. Third, get involved in activities you enjoy. When you are attending events, be them formal networking or not, ask others what groups, organizations, web sites, resources they found effective. Also, ask them how they have managed to market themselves successfully. Some people will tell you and some people will beat around the bush. Again, if you don't ask, you won't know.
You could also host a breakfast, seminar, dinner party at your house, whatever venue you prefer, to share what you do. Identify your target market, solicit your friends, advisors and colleagues to help you reach those people and bring them together in a social setting. Enjoy each others company and lo and behold they meet you. Then follow up. The KEY to successful networking is FOLLOW UP. Remember, persistency pays off. It may take a very long time, sometimes even a year, but it will pay off in one form or another.
Washington, DC: What is the single most important thing to do to develop an effective networking strategy? How do you then channel your networking strategy into actual business devlopment?
Anna Nardone: To reiterate, it's all about follow up. Always follow up, but don't be too pushy. Be pleasant. Keeping in touch with people is really important. We are all so busy, that it is often easy to forget about a connection or opportunity. If you stay in touch, the person won't forget you.
It's all about establishing a connection, demonstrating your abilites and credibility, and building that relationship. People want to feel comfortable with you. This is how you turn your networking into business. Set up a meeting. Present your business. Provide references. And don't forget to ask for the opportunity to do business with them. Often sales people get so excited about presenting their business, that they forget to ask for the sale, the business. You'd like them to give you an opportunity to work with them.
When developing your networking strategy, keep in mind your goal. What is it that you are networking for?
Again, remember to give yourself the chance to meet a lot of different people. You never know where a connection will take you. Like the saying goes with investments: Diversify or Die.
New York: Anna -
What do you think are the greatest challenges women face in the workplace?
Anna Nardone: Although we have progressed, we still have a long way to go. Women are still not treated as equals. We are still not being paid equally and the "good-old-boy network" is alive and thriving. This means that we must work harder to prove ourselves. We must constantly demonstrate our abilities and we must work together.
In addition, one of the most difficult challenges is balancing family and career. Many women are still discriminated against when they decide to have children. Yes, we have seen progess in this area, but we, ourselves and our businesses, are still not there. Will we ever get there? Hm. I hope so. I think the growth in women-owned businesses is a testimony to our determination to bridge this gap. I think many of us would like to have a family, to raise our children, but also be intellectually challenged. Both are formidable tasks with incredible rewards.
One last thought on this: I think it is all about choices not balance. We can strive for balance, but this is directly related to the choices we make. Often these choices are difficult and sometimes painful. Just remember, be true to yourself. Do what feels right to you. Listen to your gut and your intuition. YOU know what is best for you.
Washington, DC: How is your organization different than all of the other women's organizations? How do you facilitate business development/ connections/ networking?
Anna Nardone: Ok. Last question.
Our point of difference is that we are focused on the network. We are building a valuable resource for women. The Leading Ladies mission is to create a powerful network of women from diverse backgrounds, cultures, ethnic groups, and professions, with a shared commitment to the personal and professional advancement of women.
We also actively connect these women. We help transform these connections into valuable relationships that lead to client developement, career and social opportunities, which enhance women's lives.
I recently read a statement by Diana Chapman Walsh, President of Wellesley College that describes exactly what we are all about. Even though she was talking about Wellesley, the same applies for Leading Ladies: we create a place that "brings us together as a playful intellectual community keenly aware of its shared values, common purposes, meaningful differences, and underlying bonds of mutual respect and affection."
We all want to be valued. We all want to be inspired. We need to be encouraged. We need to know that we can do anything. We advocate this philosophy. Leading Ladies tag line is "Leading by Example." We are all role models for each other. Our unique and commond experiences help us to move forward and achieve our dreams.
Anna Nardone: Thank you for your questions. I hope that I answered them to your satisfaction. If you have additional questions or are interested in learning more about Leading Ladies, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 578-1177. I would be happy to speak with you. Also, if you are interested in any of our events here in DC (May 24th - Spring Leading Ladies or June 14 - Women's Health event) or in Boston (June 1st)...yes, we are expanding across the US and internationally, please contact us.
Leading Ladies: Networking
Wine tasting at the Australian Embassy is what appealed to me. I had just completed a course on wine tasting last fall and wanted to test my newly acquired skills. But the event was a networking occasion organized by Leading Ladies. The thought of an evening with hundreds of career-obsessed women gave me pause. Despite these doubts, my curiosity won out. The gathering turned out to be different from any I have attended in my almost 20 years in Washington.
The wine flowed freely, there were hundreds of women to talk to and the guest speaker was interesting. I collected cards from a career coach, a financial advisor, and business partners who were wardrobe consultants. I ran into a woman who takes my aerobics classes. I even met a woman who flew into Washington from Clearwater, Fla. just to attend the Leading Ladies (LL) event. Clad in a white fur coat, clear plastic heels with a mane of platinum hair she worked the room handing out cards that explained her business selling airplanes and lear jets!
The creation of Leading Ladies was born out of the desire and determination of one woman, Anna Nardone, 31, to start her own business. After graduating college, Anna, like many of us, didn't have a clear idea of what she wanted to do with her life. A friend convinced her to come to Washington from Boston for a fundraising, consulting job. After a series of sales, marketing and event management positions, and much encouragement from friends, she was ready to step out on her own.
Jennifer Butkovich, sales manager of Hard Rock Café, who helped Anna promote Leading Ladies, told me what has kept her involved in the organization. "I've been in so many other networking groups," she said. "I wanted to meet women outside the hospitality industry who can open my mind to new things." Jennifer said she has stayed with LL because the speakers Anna gets have been so good. "The people drawn to Anna are positive. They are people I want to surround myself with. Anna is a good connector finding out what you're looking for and getting it for you." Jennifer added that she's still friends with a woman she met at a career panel Anna organized at Crestar Bank more than a year ago.
The first Leading Ladies event was held in November 1998 at the Old Ebbitt Grill in downtown Washington. Anna had no idea how many women to expect. "The back bar was packed with over 70 women," she said. Four months later, she had an email list of more than 1,000 names, all acquired by word of mouth. "I was truly amazed."
Each reception has been held in a unique setting. This past March, LL got the opportunity to get an inside view of The Washington Post where participants listened to Geneva Overholser, Pulitzer prize winning newspaper editor and writer, and enjoyed an art exhibit by Hemphill Fine Arts Gallery. Receptions have been held at Atlantic Video, Inc. the largest full service video production studio in D.C. and at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington.
According to its brochure, LL, sponsored by the Tidings Corporation, was founded to "provide the vehicle for women of diverse professions, business and educational backgrounds to meet and network for the purpose of enhancing their business, careers and lives." But what isn't in the brochure material is that a large part of LL's success is a result of Anna's staunch belief in supporting women. As friend Susan Haran said, it was Anna's desire to be her own boss and do something for women that led to LL. "Many people don't seem to have picked up the gauntlet after Gloria Steinem. Anna is one of those women who has."
Even though LL is an avenue for professional and entrepreneurial women, it is also an excellent forum for social, intellectual and political interaction, said Susan Leavitt, a Virginia realtor and aerobic instructor who invited me to my first LL event last year. "I find it inspirational that most of the women are involved in sports, the arts or programs that foster and support community growth. Despite my strong dislike of 'networking' per se, I find myself looking forward to the LL events for social and professional stimulation."
In addition to the regular quarterly networking receptions, Leading Ladies offers programs about career opportunities. For example, Anna organized a panel of lawyers who talked about how they are creatively using their law degree. This summer she is planning a program on women's health issues. She also plans to set up programs on entrepreneurship, business development, personal development and financial investing.
One of Anna's visions for Leading Ladies is to expand the network across the country and overseas. "I want to create an international organization focused on connecting women throughout the world," she explained. Her first out-of-Washington event has been scheduled for June 1 in Boston, Mass.
Receptions are $20, and free for those with a charter membership ($95/year). For information on Leading Ladies events, contact Anna Nardone (703) 578-1177 or email her at email@example.com.
The Rag ~ Washington, DC ~ June 2000
The Rag is your forum for information on what's going on in our community. Send event information to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Community News Editor: Mary Masters
Leading Ladies® Lead The Way
Encouragement. Everybody needs it, especially women. And if theyre not getting it from home, work, or their friends, finding it elsewhere can be frustrating.
But not if Anna Nardone has anything to do with it! She is a Washington woman with a penchant for putting people togetherpeople who can benefit from knowing one another.
It all started in 1996 when Nardone looked around at her vast collection of varied friends who didnt really know one another. Connecting them, she realized, could be life-altering. In November, 1996, she launched K.C. Networks (short for Kitchen Chat Networks), so named because everybody crams into the kitchen, no matter how small, to chat. Forty women had met earlier in her house, potluck in hand, and the womens group was off and running. Each month, a different person would host the event until the
The women talked about everythingfrom finding the work you love, to buying a car, to discussing womens health issues. Inspired K.C. Networks regulars started punting inspiration right back at Nardone. You really need to start a womens business network. Charge us for membership, they urged. Im not doing that! Nardone replied, emphatically, though she filed the idea away for later.
In April, 1998, Nardone began a new company called The Tidings Corporation to help private businesses meet key prospective clients more effectively. The organizations she approached usually missed her objective of creating business development events, however, and wanted her to help them fundraise instead. K.C. Networks, meanwhile, was flourishing and had changed its name to Leading Ladies. At this point Nardone established Leading Ladies as a division of The Tidings Corporation and focused most of her efforts on connecting and promoting women.
On the surface, Leading Ladies may look like any other womens nonprofit, but there are surprising differences between Leading Ladies and other womens associations. For one, its not a nonprofit. Its a business, based on how to develop relationships and turn relationships into valuable business contacts, says Nardone.
While its a non-partisan, non-industry-specific, women-only group, Nardone insists that Leading Ladies is anything but anti-male. Theres a time and a place for everything: a time when women should get together; a time when men should get together; and a time when they should mix. To foster a communicative environment free of male-female competition or sexual tension, Nardone and her Leading Ladies enjoy a girls night out except that these girls are powerful, professional women.
To set Leading Ladies apart and increase its efficiency in fostering its member community, Nardone meets with every charter membera title she awards to not only the first tier of women to sign up, but any annual dues-paying attendee. While Nardone says that everyone has dreams and needs, she realizes that not everyone knows how to reach her own finish line. When Nardone meets with members for a personal consultation, she offers access to connections or resources that may expedite their plans.
Yes, but how? she replied in frustration. The insight from other women who had been where she was and gone on to realize their own successful endeavors was invaluable to Nardone. And she understands that this same encouragement and insight is necessary for other women with goals.
Through her one-on-one meetings, Nardone learns which women are new to the area, which ones are die-hard golf players, which women are looking for career opportunities, which ones want to start a new business but dont know where to begin, and which ones need fresh clients to help their business grow.
The more women they meet, the larger the sphere of influence and knowledge base. Nardone says. Every quarter, networking receptions are held at a different location, (e.g., the Old Ebbitt Grill, the Singapore Embassy, Atlantic Video, Inc.,) to further expand the members information pool.
Nardone stresses that her members do not depend solely on Leading Ladies for all social and professional interaction, but that the women become active in their own industry associations and hobby-based clubs. This prevents members from limiting their connections and becoming personally and professionally stale.
Since its inception in 1998, Nardone has been barraged with requests for Leading Ladies events across the country. When are you coming to Chicago? When are you coming to Columbus? When are you coming to Dallas?, they would ask. People were sending in checks from other states, and I was saying, We dont even have a chapter there yet! In just over two years, Leading Ladies has opened new networking groups in San Francisco, Boston, and New York. In time, Nardone hopes to see the spread of Leading Ladies nationwide and envisions an international organization focused on connecting women throughout the world.
The fresh approach to networking attracts a diverse group of women. Someone is from Cambodia, someones from Iran, and someones from New York. Members work in law, finance, politics, advertising, marketing, and technology. They own businesses, large and small. We are creating a diverse group of women from different backgrounds, both personal and professional, because we see ourselves in other people, and it is important to have role models. Mature women with experience can remember what it was like to be a struggling young woman equally full of ideas and fears, says Nardone. Younger women look to those who have gone before as courageous trailblazers.
To ease communication between members, Nardone picks a quirky question for every meeting and places each attendees answer on her name tag. Questions such as, What is your passion? What is your favorite restaurant? and not just, What do you do? open up conversations between strangers. One woman whose executive assistant answered the question on the Leading Ladies event registration, What is your passion? for her boss was surprised and thrilled when people began coming up and inquiring about her two children. That keeps us from stereotyping, says Nardone. Everyone has so many different facets to their life and often times people put you in a little box. Just come and be yourself, and dont worry about saying the right thing.
Leading Ladies is not your run-of-the-mill womens networking group. Its an encouragement factory, where women lift up fellow members on the ascentnot only to shatter the glass ceiling, but to shatter the notion that women dont help each other.
To learn more about Leading Ladies, call 703-684-1214 or visit the
Sherri LaReaux is a freelance writer based in Rockville, MD.
HELPING WOMEN CONNECT WITH WOMEN
"I took a circuitous path," says Anna Nardone '90. "Women are not linear."
She is talking about the jobs -- in sales, fund-raising, event planning -- that led to her present post. Officially, she is the president and founder of The Tidings Corporation and Leading Ladiessm, based in Washington, DC. Unofficially, she's a business guru, a connector, a cheerleader, and an advocate of equal job opportunities and pay for women.
She founded Tidings in 1998 to "develop, manage, and implement strategic and creative networking events." Leading Ladies, a division of Tidings, is a vehicle that gets women together to network, to make personal and professional connections, and to act as role models for one another. The women do this during receptions and special events, held in such unexpected meeting spots as the Singapore Embassy and the offices of the Washington Post. They gather; they eat; they listen to a speaker; they chat. And they find clients, jobs, and friends.
Anna first started a networking group--informal, yet structured--in 1996 and called it KC (for Kitchen Chat) Networks. Kitchen Chat sounds like the coffee klatches that knit together women who worked full-time raising kids a couple of generations ago--but Anna's Chat klatches were different from the start. They were bigger: There were about 40 women in her house at the first one. And the conversation was focused on such topics as how to find work you love, women's health issues, and sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Chatters like the chats, but at the time, Anna says, she was "struggling with what I wanted to do with my life." She decided to hibernate for a while, drop the KC Networks, and think.
Her family background, her schooling, her jobs, and her inclinations all fed into her thinking. She was influenced by her father, who has his own building company. "My dad's business is built on personal relationships," she says. "They do zero marketing." She was influenced by her mother, who worked in Anna's father's business and always urged Anna to be independent and able to support herself. She was inspired by Wellesley, where she was a psychology major, and wanted to emulate the things that were so "empowering and encouraging" about the College. And she had been drawn to people-oriented jobs since her graduation from college.
All this added up to the decision to start her own business with a focus on women helping women. She plunged in, first founding Tidings and then Leading Ladies. In 1998, she held the first Leading Ladies reception at a historic Washington restaurant. She spread the word through her e-mail list (it had about 200 names then and how has about 2,000) and was amazed to find 70 women jammed into one of the back bars of the restaurant.
Today, Leading Ladies has quarterly networking receptions, two hours long, with a standard format: All women wear name tags, with their name, their company (but never their title, "because that isolates people"), and the answer to a question -- for example, what's their favorite restaurant. The name tag "immediately disarms people," Anna says.
At each reception, Anna gives a brief introduction, urging the women to exchange business cards, to take notes on the back of them (you talked about horseback riding, for instance), and to have fun. A speaker does a 10-minute presentation, and then the networking resumes.
It seems to work. Anna gets letters from happy networkers, saying Leading Ladies got them an immediate job interview or a new client. A graphic designer wrote that the women she met "will enhance my existing business and help me to grow more future business."
Beyond networking, says Anna, "We're trying to constantly educate them." She cites such special events -- she holds 7 to 10 a year in Washington -- as the recent "Power Wine Education Seminar," in which a leading wine advocate dissected the mysteries of selecting wine.
A couple of years ago, Anna wasn't sure where she was going. Now she's prepared to expand; she envisions Leading Ladies going "across the country and overseas ." Already, she has held events in Boston, Annapolis, Md., San Francisco, and New York.
The route to her entrepreneurship may have been circuitous, but Anna seems to be going in a straight line now, full steam ahead.
Barbara W. Carlson '50
Anne Arundel County
WHEREAS: in 1998, Leading Ladies, a division of The Tidings Corporation, a woman-owned business, was established as a vehicle for women of diverse professions, business, and educational backgrounds, to meet and network for the purpose of enhancing their business, careers, and lives; and
WHEREAS: the Leading Ladies have endeavored to expand the reach of their network across the country and overseas, to create an international organization focused on connecting women throughout the globe; and
WHEREAS: their mission aspires to create a powerful network of women from diverse backgrounds, ethnicity, and professions, with a shared commitment to the personal and professional advancement of women; and
WHEREAS: this organization exists to encourage women to pursue their dreams, to inspire them with role models, and to educate and inform women about opportunities; and
WHEREAS: leadership is a serving relationship that has the effect of facilitating human development and, improving the lives of other people and the systems they live under. We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore and, Leading Ladies inspires that courage.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JANET S. OWENS, COUNTY EXECUTIVE OF ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MARYLAND
DO HEREBY PROCLAIM
May 15, 2001
Leading Ladies Day