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Even as the world celebrates Women’s Day, millions of female professionals struggle to find mentors and networks to build careers they love. Why is this key career step stone so elusive to women and what can be done about it?

Allianz SE
Munich, Mar 08, 2018

Allianz-many female professionals struggle to find mentors and networks

Lean In

Nimet Temel, a university graduate in her 20s, has been looking for her break to find a job - for two years. As a communications major and recent graduate, she did not have work experience - the old chicken and egg problem. To stay motivated, she started watching digital videos of inspiring women on an online platform.

There, she chanced upon an online event featuring a female social entrepreneur who started a smart village - combining advanced technology with the capabilities of traditional farming methods. Inspired by the entrepreneur, Nimet reached out, explained her dilemma and soon won a job at a company that develops agricultural information technologies. Today, Nimet is responsible for digital media there.

The videos were featured  at Binyaprak, a Turkey-based digital mentoring and networking platform, one of  the finalists of the Investment Ready Program, to which Allianz is lending its expertise under a partnership with Impact Hub.

The startup’s unique offering looks to fill a gap that women face in the workforce – finding role models, information and people with similar experiences to help them get their foot through the right door.

Allianz-Melek Pulatkonak, co-founder of Binyaprak

Why the Gaps

More and more women are getting the right qualifications required to succeed in the workplace. Attitudes seem to be changing too, as more companies become comfortable with the idea of putting women in leadership positions.

And yet, good mentors elude women. Where lie the hurdles?

One could be the persistence of traditional patterns in today’s workplaces. Despite the emergence of formidable women leaders, most organizations still have a rather traditional hierarchical structure, especially in the senior management. According to a study by Forbes, nearly three-quarters of executive positions in the world’s top 500 companies are still occupied by men.

What sociologists commonly refer to as “homosocial reproduction” is the tendency among people in influential positions to subconsciously seek protégés that mirror their own profiles and attitudes. This makes it difficult for women, however qualified, to connect well with senior managers, who tend to be males.

There’s also the aspect of women in high-level positions subconsciously feeling the need to go the extra mile to prove their suitability for the job in a male-dominated environment. This gives them less time and energy to invest in mentoring other women.

Societal conditioning when it comes to recruiting females is to blame too. Those scouting for talent tend to see women’s priorities being family and household obligations. This bias expresses itself in questions managers usually ask themselves when they look for people to invest in. In the case of women, these questions could be: ‘Will she be able to continue in her role once she gets pregnant?’, ‘Does she have the capacity to fully invest in this job?’, ‘Will her family obligations come in the way of meeting professional goals?’. Unfair, but true.

Allianz-Infographics on women's networks

Different Social Wiring

A major reason, however, could be women’s social wiring. According to research by McKinsey, women tend to be a lot less upfront about their intentions and demands while networking, seeking deeper connections rather than transactional ones that men usually cultivate.

“Men leverage the power of weak networks so well! Us women want to build networks that are personal, last longer and are strategic - betting on few deep connections. Digital platforms give us an opportunity to flip this bias, at the right time and at your time.” says Binyaprak’s co-founder Melek Pulatkonak.

As an entrepreneur committed to women’s empowerment in Turkey, Pulatkonak noticed how women were reluctant to seek help from people they had little to no personal connection with. When she realized that digital networking could be the answer, Binyaprak was born. 

“Most women who sign up on our website come with a concrete purpose: They want to know how to acquire a specific skill, understand practices within an industry culture, learn how to leverage their education or how to land a lateral entry. None of these women need someone to hold their hand for six months. All they are looking for is an answer to their clear and specific question,” Pulatkonak says.

Binyaprak gathers and categorizes FAQs from women across industries and career stages. Women who have the relevant experience share their stories in videos which are then tagged to direct users to the specific advice. Each video ends with the same positive message: If I did it so can you! The video library features women and men who can be contacted online for follow-up questions. Online events, articles and forums complete the basket of networking opportunities. “The platform is a virtual handshake between seekers and sharers.“

A good mentor may not guarantee you career success but can definitely set you on the right path. Oprah Winfrey sums it up best - “A mentor is someone who allows you see hope inside of yourself.”

Pimco Leads the Way

PIMCO, an Allianz company, has partnered with Girls Who Invest, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the asset management industry.

Girls Who Invest helps promising female college students from diverse backgrounds learn core investment concepts through an intensive educational program, meet industry luminaries and intern at leading asset management firms. 

Under the partnership, PIMCO professionals will speak at Girls Who Invest’s Summer Intensive Programs, hosted at University of Pennsylvania and University of Notre Dame, as well as hire six of the organization’s female scholars as interns in Newport Beach, New York and London this summer.

Girls Who Invest aims to see 30 percent of the world's investable capital managed by women by 2030.

  Forward Looking Statement disclaimer

As with all content published on this site, these statements are subject to our Forward Looking Statement disclaimer:

 

  Press contact

Anja Rechenberg
Allianz SE
Phone: +49 89 3800 4511

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