How can women create and use professional science and technology networks more effectively?


Julie Sheridan Eng
Director, New Product Development, Agere Technologies

Susan Fitzpatric
Senior Scientist, Women’s Health Research Institute, Wyeth Research


The workshop began with an ice-breaker that was also an unannounced exercise. Participants walked around the room and introduced themselves to others for about three minutes. Each participant was asked to relate what she remembered about each person. The exercise made three points.

  • Those introducing themselves learned what people in the room heard from them as they introduced themselves in a "cocktail party" environment.

  • Each person discovered how well she listened to people introducing themselves compared to others in the room who also met the same person.

  • All then could also draw the conclusion that it is helpful to have an "elevator speech" — a few lines that you can recite about yourself, your job, your goals, what’s important to you — if you run into someone you want to meet and have a limited time to share this information.


The workshop arrived at a consensus definition of networking: "improving communication with other people."

People viewed networking as expanding their contact base. People use networking to find opportunities, to get information or a job, to meet other people. It also provides new experiences. Several people looking for jobs said that they would like to learn how to meet and interact with high-power people who may be helpful in their careers; they viewed selling themselves as an important part of networking. Others further on in their careers saw networking as both give and take, in which they were offering information and help as much or more than receiving it. Having a network of experts you can consult on your job can help increase your job efficiency.

Networking also offers an opportunity to feel a sense of connection and engagement with others that may have a common interest with you. And, it can be general, such as meeting other women in science, or specific, such as trying to meet a particular person who can help you out in your job.


Issues included: how, when and where to network? How to introduce yourself, what is the protocol? How can we improve our networks? What is an informational interview and how to conduct one? And how do we maintain our networks?

How, when and where is anywhere, as long as you do not waste or monopolize the other person’s time. If you have a particular request in mind, make it clear and do it early in the conversation. For example, "I’d like to stop by your office for 15 minutes next week to get your advice on a decision I’m making." If you had met a person before, but weren’t sure they remembered you, to feel free to say something like, "Hi, I’m Jane Brown from AT&T, we met briefly in the Networking Workshop at the Bryn Mawr College Women in Science Symposium last year."

Maintaining your network was a topic of some discussion. Some people suggested sending e-mail messages every once in a while and/or sending information you come across that you think that person might be interested in. Several reminded the group, however, that a fine line exists between networking and stalking.


Women often don’t network effectively out of insecurity regarding networking.


  1. Identify a goal for each networking opportunity. Do you want to meet three new people? Is there a particular person you would like to meet, or someone from a particular company or industry? If so, thinking about this in advance will help to guide you to interact with people in a way that helps you meet this goal.

  2. Be more specific in conversation. "I’d like to speak to you sometime, I think I could learn a lot from you" is not as effective as "I’d like to stop by your office next week for 15 minutes to get your input on a project I’m working on [add a detail or two here]." The more the person you are seeking information from understands the time commitment and goal of your interacting with them, the more likely you are to get their time.

  3. Develop an exit line. Such a line provides a tactful way to get yourself out of an unproductive situation that isn’t helping you reach goals defined in (1) above.

  4. Join a professional society: a lot of networking goes on at professional society meetings and committees. For example, many members of the Philadelphia Association of Women in Science (AWIS) chapter attending the Bryn Mawr symposium already knew one another and keep up through AWIS activities.

  5. Get involved in planning events and participating on committees. This is a natural way to meet new people and interact with them informally


  1. Sponsor networking events for alumnae. Include undergraduates.

  2. Encourage more undergraduate involvement in events like the Bryn Mawr College Women in Science Symposium, which provided a great potential networking environment for students.

  3. Sponsor a Women in Science Symposium annually, perhaps with rotating themes, such as leadership, entrepreneurship or career development.

  4. Offer a networking class (evening, part-day) for undergraduates and graduate students.

  5. Invite alumnae to give career talks, which also help build networks for students.


Bryn Mawr and other colleges should work with a national organization such as AWIS to develop a Web-based listserve where information can be shared and questions and answers can be posted. It could begin modestly, like the computer Systers network, and expand as support and interest exists.

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