4 Replies Latest reply on Jun 12, 2010 11:48 AM by Janet Bryant

    A Member of the Club????

    Judith Giordan

      I am ¾ 2nd generation American. All of my grandparents, except for my father’s mother who was born in the US, came through Ellis Island in the late 1800’s. Being of Italian and Russian Jewish heritage, I grew up culturally within two ethnic groups (that are not unlike many, many others) that spent their formative years as immigrant populations being outsiders and actually restricted from getting good jobs let alone becoming members of any clubs! These groups were often seen as bad influences, unable to be educated or to do higher level educated jobs, not worthy of good pay and always looking for assistance because they couldn’t make it. In short – they were inferior. Period.

      So what did these always-pressing-their-noses-to-the-glass-to-get-in-but-it-seemed-they-couldn’t-no-matter-what-they-did groups do? They STARTED THEIR OWN CLUBS! They BECAME SO GOOD at what they did, and SO NEEDED that – after a while – they didn’t care about the other clubs. And guess what? The vast majority of these outsiders – were men.

      What, you may be asking, could this possibly have to do with women breaking into the old boys’ networks at companies, universities, labs, non-profits today? LOTS! Because in many ways, women are the new immigrant group trying to break-in to traditionally closed clubs.

      1. JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE IS MALE, DOESN’T GUARANTEE HIM ENTRY TO “The Club”. Fact is that the majority of men are never asked to become part of any old boy’s club. Think about it. The majority of people do not become the leaders and insiders in any organization, and as the majority of workers in technology areas are still men, that means the majority of men are outsiders. (It’s kind of like the commutative law as it relates to outsidedness). The people who do get in are there because they bring something valuable to the table as judged by those at the table. That’s the key – being sure you know what is deemed valuable by those at the table. NOT what you would like to be deemed valuable or you believe should be deemed valuable. And remembering that even if you know, that’s not enough to get in – now you have to demonstrate you should be one of them. So, to my next point – who is the “them”? HUBS….

      2. HUBS. Now, I wish I had the magic bullet to sharing how to break-in. I don’t. BUT I can tell you some things that can work. At every level, in every organization there are the play makers. These are the people who make good and positive things happen; who are well connected and know what is required to be successful. Those who make it happen, who do great work, and are recognized for it. They are hubs.   Albert-Laszlo Barabasi in the book: “Linked: The New Science of Networks” clearly showed that ALL networks map the same way and work by the same rules. And with people networks, the key is knowing that some people are “better” connected than others. These people are hubs; the rest are nodes. Take out a node (people connected to hubs) and the system continues to work. Take out a hub (or a few hubs) and you can get a cascading failure. So figure out who are the hubs, figure out what makes them hubs, learn from them and get closer. They are usually at the center of the networks and clubs that matter. Which brings me to my third point.. YOU are THEM!

      3. WOMEN - PLEASE EMBRACE YOUR OWN POWER & BUILD “CLUBS” THAT FOCUS ON BUSINESS AND HELPING EACH OTHER MOVE AHEAD. There are lots and lots of books written, talks given and advice out there on forming women’s networks. The challenge I am putting out there (and I risk annoying people with this comment, but here goes) is that these networks don’t amount to much. They become “pity parties” and wind up not focusing on the key items that help build a career. What are the issues of the organization; where are the next key jobs coming up; what “tickets” need to be punched to get ahead; what contributions are required; which skill sets are respected; who has power and who do they look to for help and why –these are some of the implicit topics that “the old boys” focus on, as work-life balance is not usually high on their radar screen – whether you think it should be or not.

      So that’s my take. Bottom line - have the gumption and CONFIDENCE not to need their clubs - let’s build our own. Let’s stay focused on developing and accessing hubs – male and female - and never forget that only we are choosing to press-our-noses-to-the glass waiting to be invited in.

      Can’t wait to hear what you all have to say!!   Judy

        • Re: A Member of the Club????
          Samina Azad

          Great post, Judy!! I agree with you 100 percent. We have to start our own clubs. Who cares about joining the "OLD BOYS CLUB" anyways!?

          • Re: A Member of the Club????
            John Sullivan



            That is a powerful message.  I think there is a lot of truth in what you say.  My only observation is that your advice holds true for anyone and any group.  Without doing it consciously, as I reflect on my own career, I would say that I came from a "class" of "always-pressing-their-noses-to-the-glass-to-get-in-but-it-seemed-they-couldn't-no-matter-what-they-did" people.


            In my case it was the fact that I was only the 2nd person (my father being the first) to have a college education.  As the standard bearer for my extended Irish emigrant family my father set a great example, but being the 1st meant that he had to discover many of these unwritten rules himself.  As the case with many people who become familiar with these concepts by experience instead of education - he did not think or was unable to communicate how these informal groups worked.


            Entering the workforce without the knowledge you so clearly articulate led me to face many of the barriers you discussed, despite the fact that I am a male.  I particularly like the analogy to the "Hub" and "Node" and with your permission will use it liberally in the future to educate others.


            Great stuff - thanks for sharing.



            • Re: A Member of the Club????
              Judith Giordan



              Thanks for sharing. Yep, feeling like an outsider can certainly apply to any and many groups - and thank you for giving personal evidence about men to help validate the first point. "We have to be the change we want to see in the world", as Ghandi has said...to the extent we ALL RECAH OUT TO HELP others, the better off the planet will be and the more rapidly we can develop bridges to working together to solve global challenges and each become hubs.




              • Re: A Member of the Club????
                Janet Bryant

                Hmmm....Good food for thought, Judy.


                A couple of comments to help with discussion:

                - Most of the networks I'm involved in with other technical women go thru a 'social network phase publicly.you get to know each other, find out what you have in common, build some trust and contacts, and test the waters with each other.

                - then there's the smaller inner circle that forms...you know...the movers and shakers...ie hubs start emerging...


                This takes time and investment to make that happen within each circle.