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To think you should be able to network with people of opposite gender...

(101 Posts)
RingOfFire79 Tue 04-Oct-16 17:55:22

...and not have them get all odd/flirty/declare their feelings for you after a bit? What do professional women do to network with men without this happening?

I am a twenty-something, unmarried (but in a long-term relationship) woman in a male-dominated industry where most (and the best) networking takes place in bars/over dinner/at evening receptions. I dress (though I like to think this shouldn't matter) conservatively in blouses, pencil skirts, skirt suits - never any cleavage and never anything above the knee. I usually wear flats because heels are too much like hard work for getting between meetings. I (like to think!) I wear tasteful, discreet make-up.

I am gregarious - I have to be, doing what I do - and equally with men and women. My role is pretty nerdy and socialising is not a major part of my job but networking is useful for any career. Since I have started working, men (often senior men) ask me for networking coffees or drinks or lunch. They usually have a wedding ring or mention their wife and children. I always casually drop the fact that I have a partner into the conversation early on. I don't get drunk, though I will have a glass of wine or two. I have tried networking with the few women but they never seem to want to meet up (my closest friends are female so it's not that I'm not a girls' girl).

Sometimes it looks like someone in the industry might become a friend. Then I will go for dinner with them. Regardless of whether it's dinner or drinks or a coffee, there have been only a few instances of a good professional relationship (i.e. where we've met up for a coffee or a drink more than once over, say, the course of 18 months) where the guy hasn't at some stage made a pass at me or sent me a text saying he wishes we could be more than friends/colleagues or made a lunge at the end of the evening. This is over the course of several years. I am bored of it and don't know how to build a good network without interacting with any men. And all my male colleagues go for networking dinners with people.

I suppose I cannot go for dinner with men in my industry. I also no longer go for more than one round of drinks each with them. But I wonder whether I shouldn't just stop doing alcohol (though this is where all the best networking takes place in my profession) with them at all, and stick to coffees and lunches? Is that what other professional women do? Should I reduce the frequency of a coffee/drink? It doesn't seem to happen to my female friends, I think because they work in different industries or aren't too fussed about networking.

I'm reasonably attractive (this is not false modesty, believe me!) but not hugely so, so that's not it. I don't flirt. What should I be doing to maintain and build my professional networks while avoiding this situation in the future?

All tips much appreciated. I know this seems a little "oooh, poor me" but I'm so frustrated and don't want to insert awkwardness into my professional relationships when I brush off any advances.

Discobabe Tue 04-Oct-16 18:00:32

I don't know. I've never had this problem despite being reasonably attractive (imo). I assume I just make it very clear I'm not up for that shit?

RingOfFire79 Tue 04-Oct-16 18:04:16

Thanks, Discobabe - any tips on how you make it clear?

I forgot to say that I am in a leadership position at a relatively young age (for my industry) so I don't think it's a case of seeming vulnerable/too junior to matter, if that makes sense? Flipping hell - it's hard to write any of this stuff without sounding like an arrogant a**e. But if I can't be honest on an online forum, where can I be?!

RealityCheque Tue 04-Oct-16 18:08:20

To be honest, it's something you will need to put up with as you are clearly soooooo irresistible to men! I'm surprised women aren't falling at you feet as well as is common with sexual goddesses such as yourself.


RingOfFire79 Tue 04-Oct-16 18:11:29

Yeah, thought I might get that reaction from some. Genuinely looking for advice here as I don't know what other women do in male-dominated industries.

Discobabe Tue 04-Oct-16 18:13:26

I think I just have what's known as resting bitch face tbh grin although I'm not in a male dominated environment either.

Wellywife Tue 04-Oct-16 18:14:13

That was unfair Reality. When I was younger and in a more salesy role I had similar experiences. I'm distinctly average to look at but have always been chatty and made the effort to sound interested. FFS a colleague told me he was gay and still made a lunge.

I know everyone on MN would deny it, but I think it's hard to be anything other than surface friendly with the opposite sex.

Andagainandagainandagain Tue 04-Oct-16 18:21:29

All I can do is sympathise. Not a problem for me but have seen it happen alot. I opted out of my nerdy, male dominated profession because I just got fed up with the people I was working with although I enjoyed the actual work. It is poor social skills on their part but that doesn't help you. For some it was leeryness, some who couldn't talk about anything but football and alcohol, some who thought they were gods gift to the world. I still feel guilty about the message it sends to DD but there is time for me to redemption myself on that. The age of women leaving my profession is alot lower for than for men and it often happens before they have kids or kids are the good excuse. Good luck!

museumum Tue 04-Oct-16 18:21:47

I think you just have to avoid/deflect the 1:1 time. So if somebody wants to do dinner always invite another one or two along.
It's not a problem I've had (am now 40 married with a child) but I do tend to do work socialising in groups of at least 3.

AmeliaJack Tue 04-Oct-16 18:24:59

Does your industry have an institute or governing body? Networking via their events might help make it clear that it's a work only interest.

My industry has some women's only bodies too which are super for networking.

Elphame Tue 04-Oct-16 18:25:16

I also worked in a senior role in a male dominated environment. I would agree to coffee and lunch but never dinner unless it was in a group. There is something much more intimate about dinner somehow.

ohgoodlordthatsmoist Tue 04-Oct-16 18:27:19

Get a wedding ring and wear it for such occasions.

PNGirl Tue 04-Oct-16 18:27:20

In a male dominated industry, you may sometimes be seen by single men as a woman they have an opportunity to spend a lot of time with legitimately and "work on" so to speak. I can't comment on the married ones...

I have to say I don't think one on one dinners unless the person is a work contact who has developed into a real friend are necessary for "networking". I'd be peeved if my husband was doing this regularly although he often socialises in groups on business trips. Like... What is a networking coffee?

RingOfFire79 Tue 04-Oct-16 18:27:22

Thank you, that's a good idea on inviting other people along. Plus I get brownie points for introducing two people in the event they haven't already met each other!

My industry actually does tend to attract men (and women, probably!) with fragile but ginormous egos - even the most average man appears to think they are god's gift.

TheSparrowhawk Tue 04-Oct-16 18:30:54

It happens to me too. I'm not a looker and not even very 'groomed' but I'm pretty much guaranteed that if I build up a work relationship with a man it won't be long before he starts making gooey eyes. It's fucking annoying and I have no idea how to stop it.

zoop1 Tue 04-Oct-16 18:31:27

I think museumum makes a good point about avoiding 1:1, which can be open to misinterpretation. Going out as a group of 3 or more seems more likely to be taken for what it is, rather than an opportunity for flirtation.

Laiste Tue 04-Oct-16 18:31:56

Elphame - I would agree to coffee and lunch but never dinner unless it was in a group. There is something much more intimate about dinner somehow.''

I would agree with this. Plus having 'rounds of drinks' might seem more 'pally' than buisness like IMO.

RingOfFire79 Tue 04-Oct-16 18:32:11

I've started going to a women's only monthly drinks thing which is proving to be good fun so far. I think that's a clear 'no' to dinners - and I think that's probably right. I just envy my male colleagues who get to go to nice restaurants and have whisky and cigars afterwards with really senior people. My boyfriend does too. But I probably need to be realistic.

tempnamechange77 Tue 04-Oct-16 18:33:08

Agree about the 1:1s. Surely it's more efficient to target the group receptions and dinners. (Start your own series of industry dinners?) If you need a catch up with one person in particular do a coffee at their office or yours? Less faux-"date" time and more free time for you!

BumbleNova Tue 04-Oct-16 18:35:50

god this drives me nuts. If you meet someone at a networking event and/or in a work capacity, it should be assumed that any further contact is also intended to be professional. gah. it has happened to me and it was so cringe-worthy and also strange.

some good suggestions for mitigating but short of a ring I havent yet found a solution either??

Bountybarsyuk Tue 04-Oct-16 18:36:36

I think this is a real problem for women. Ignore the silly remarks. It does hamper things a bit if you can't spend any one to one time with people without them getting the wrong idea. I also don't go for dinner with men ever though one on one, that's perceived as dating behaviour (sadly), unless it's an old friend and we all know where we stand. Otherwise, I email, join in lunches, am friendly but not overly so, and don't talk about personal matters too much. If I think someone fancies me, I make it really clear I don't towards them and only interact professionally. It happens less now I'm older though, so that's one way of proceeding- young men don't think I'm coming on to them.

If networking isn't a big part of your role, then dinners with new male colleagues are a bit unusual, are you sure that's what's required?

RingOfFire79 Tue 04-Oct-16 18:37:21

Ooooh, tempnamechange77 I love the idea of starting a series of industry dinners... that might work beautifully. I think there could really be a need for it.

I do go to group/industry events - maybe the next time someone asks for a dinner or drinks, I can deflect and say "are you coming to X event, you really should".

Kr1stina Tue 04-Oct-16 18:40:43

I never do 1:1 or dinners unless it's a group .

And I cut off all inappropriate chat very quickly . So talk about work / our business / related current affairs etc / house prices / etc all fine. I don't get into discussions about my personal life with men from work .

I'm probably so strict about this now because I got into lots of problems when I was younger by not drawing boundaries early on. One minute they were telling me about their child starting school, next it was all about how their wife didn't understand them hmm

tempnamechange77 Tue 04-Oct-16 18:40:59

Yeah go for it! Pick a topic, have a speaker, chose a nice restaurant (with cigars if you want!) etc. You're in charge & can get lots of people together plus as you say you get bonus points for making introductions.

KatherinaMinova Tue 04-Oct-16 18:41:21

Never go to dinner 1:1 - far too open to misinterpretation. Lunches and coffees fine - I think with time of day and choice of venue you can make it fairly clear that it's business/friendship rather than anything more.

Group dinners and group drinks a good idea.

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