Success Tip for Women: Apply for Membership in the Good Old Boy Network. Today.

Spring must be just around the corner as I am seeing ads for the Masters on TV – you know, the golf tournament held at the venerable Augusta National Golf Club known for its pristine fairways, flowering azaleas and… lack of women members. Yes, Augusta National is one of those clubs that still clings to a male-only membership policy. A vivid example of a “good old boy” network doing what it does best – exclude women. You may think that we should beat the good old boy network – into oblivion perhaps – by staging protests or pretending it doesn’t exist. I disagree! My advice may surprise you and it’s this: Don’t try to beat it. Join it.

Here’s why:

Whether it is Augusta National or some other male bastion, exclusion is harmful to businesswomen. Yes, my friends lecture me on the strong and growing Good Old Girls network but it’s not the same. We are not the power brokers in the business world. We need to rub elbows with the influencers in the workplace – men! Otherwise, we experience yet one more disadvantage and obstacle to success.

In order to join, it helps to understand why the “boys’ club” even exists. Human behaviorists claim most of us (men and women) choose to be around those who look and act as we do. We categorize ourselves, friends, colleagues and acquaintances either with us or… apart. Most importantly, “source of pride” categories make us feel good about ourselves. Someone is in my “in-group” if he or she belongs to a category that I’m PROUD to be a member of.

The good old boy network? It’s simply a business in-group whose members pride themselves on having certain attributes in common, e.g. being male! The keys to gaining entry to the good old boy network are 1. To recognize that it exists, 2. To identify those common interests or “source of pride” categories (other than being male) that make men feel good about themselves, and 3. To figure out how those interests or identities overlap with yours. It’s not that tough to do. Good old boys have many interests that aren’t gender specific.

Surely there is something in this list that interests you:

• High School/college affiliations
• Professional sports teams/personal sports
• Family/kids
• Travel
• Culture/arts/community service

Can finding that commonality be difficult? Sometimes, yes. A few years ago, I was trying to connect with the office lead of my company – a beer drinking, wish-I-were-back-at college kind of guy. I wasn’t sure that we had ANY shared interests… until I realized that he was a great father and really into his kids. Eureka! We had something in common. I asked him for advice about an issue I was having with my college-aged son and formed an instant bond. Problem solved.

Yes, the good old boy network is alive and well, but I believe women can and will be admitted not by staging protests but by being accepted. And you don’t have to compromise your identity or values to do it.

By Erin Wolf

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