Almost 15 years ago, I became Cisco’s vice president of global intellectual property, a position held by only a handful of women at the time. Soon thereafter, I co-founded to connect women in technology, law, and policy for the purpose of helping build bigger books of business. Over the years, we hosted countless events and brought together thousands of smart, ambitious women. We marched against injustices side by side. We swapped maternity clothes. We made friends. But we didn’t make business deals.

After interviewing many dozens of women to find out why, I realized that despite the cultural moment female friendship is currently enjoying, the same strength, intensity, and deep connections being celebrated was also setting up a false dichotomy between personal relationships and the transactionality of business.

Women told me that when they asked a friend for business, they feared it would damage their personal relationships, took rejection personally, and became gun-shy about making another pitch. Even well-qualified women who had no qualms about asking (and were quite adept at it) were often met with avoidance, a brush-off, or no reply at all.

Women who received an ask from a friend said they didn’t expect their friends to hit them up for business and when they did, it sometimes caused an unspoken tension that dampened their enthusiasm for the relationship. Some even began to doubt the true motives behind the friendship in the first place. Others went so far as avoiding those who might ask for business later.

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    1 Response to "How Friendship Holds Women Back in Their Careers—and What They Can Do About It"

    • Wisdom Exchange TV

      This is interesting. I too have had the same experience. Do female friendship and business exist? Interestingly, historically that is how men did business – network to friendship to business associations. What gets in women’s way? Is it the perception of authenticity? Thoughts?

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