WHO: Juliette Mayers
WHAT: Mayers is the executive director of multicultural marketing for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and the author of the new book ‘‘A Black Woman’s Guide to Networking: Advance Your Career. Grow Your Business!’’
Q. What inspired you to write this book, which you dedicate to your mother?
A. Very often I reflect on my mother’s life and her role in helping my sisters and me get to the point of where we are in our careers. In Barbados, we were very poor, we lived in a two-room shack. I think of where she started out and how she was able to basically leverage relationships and networks to get her out of where she was. She would not have described it that way, but she was outgoing, always helping others, striving to make sure her children did better than she did. She was a waitress when we first came to this country.
Q. What is the most important thing for women in successful networking?
A. I include advice from prominent leaders who have mastered the art of networking. The number one take-away as it relates to women is to have more confidence.
Q. Why do women in business lack confidence?
A. I think to some extent, and I include myself in this in some regards, many women do not have access or don’t have the role models or mentors, sponsors, and so forth. When you receive messages that tell you that this is not for you, after a while, some women get so beaten down it erodes their confidence level. It really impacts one’s ability to be effective, instead of not listening to naysayers around you.
Q. How do you build confidence?
A. One way is by doing great work. And by building your brand. You want to be known as someone who does high quality work, who keeps her word, who delivers great products or services to the marketplace. Networking as I see it is a means to an end. It’s a tool for increasing effectiveness and for advancing.
Q. Women are known to be better social networkers than men. Why are men better business networkers?
A. In social settings as mothers, as community leaders, we do this all the time. But for some reason, when brought into the professional arena, we take a back seat when it comes to networking. Men golf, they go to baseball games together. They are socializing but also leveraging those relationships for business. Women do a lot of socializing, but I hear them say, “I don’t want so-and-so to think I’m using them.’’ That kind of networking is perceived as almost doing something wrong. I think women can learn a lot from men as far as changing their mindsets of engaging business and professional relationships.
Q. Is there a difference between the way white women and black women network?
A. This is the number one question I get. The answer is yes, we’re still in a society where race is a factor, a negating factor for many people, whether conscious or unconscious. The people in power are predominantly white males. Most are married to white women and may have daughters or sisters or other women in their lives with whom they communicate with and relate to on a regular basis. Their interaction with black women and seeing them in leadership roles is often nil.
‘In social settings, as mothers, . . . [women] do this all the time. But for some reason, when brought into the professional arena, we take a back seat when it comes to networking.’
Q. How should black women deal with that?
A. I say it’s one relationship at a time. For black women, there needs to be a conscious decision to expand their comfort zone in networking beyond their natural relationship base. Get engaged in an organization that may not have other black women, such as chambers of commerce, executive training sessions. You may be the only one in the room, and you have to get used to being the only one and not allow it to be a deterrent or to become victimized by it. You need to turn it around and be a victor.
Q. What is some last bit of advice for women?
A. It’s what I call HEARTS, an acronym for networking achievements: honesty, energy, attitude - a positive one, respect, thanks and smile.Interview has been condensed and edited. Bella English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.