ADVICE: How to network without fear

As well as being a content and brand marketing professional, retail expert, and owner of an online sustainable retail business, Carmel Zein is a diversity ambassador and believes in the power of networking to empower women across all industries.

Carmel shared her views on how businesses can embrace a diverse workforce, and networking tips for women looking to make the most of their community, an upcoming event, or a relevant membership group.

  • Do you think we’ll still be talking about diversity and inclusion at the end of 2020? Why or why not?

Absolutely, but the dial will shift a little bit. People are starting to realise that you can’t compartmentalise diversity e.g only talking about LGBTQ community, or exclude men from conversations of equality. Diversity and inclusion at its essence, encapsulates every walk of life and I believe that particular groups of people are yet to be represented in this dialogue.

At the end of 2020, I look forward to hearing the voices of people from different religious backgrounds, cultures, races and people with disabilities.

  • What are some initiatives corporates could be implementing today to ensure we achieve better diversity and inclusion in 2020?

Re-visiting their HR practices to include diversity and inclusion as a key practice. It is not enough to simply meet diversity quotas.

Companies need to understand that minorities will bring unique skills and ideas to the table but also challenges and differences in the way they work and operate, and this needs to be addressed at a high level. This can be done through, tightening recruitment and hiring processes, induction, people and culture initiatives, creating alternative work/lifestyle arrangements that allow everyone to work in a way they are comfortable and able to perform their best, continuously investing in learning and development around inclusion and incorporating data and metrics to analyse the success and stats of your business and understand its effects.

  • In your view, what is the value of networking events and membership groups that are exclusive to women? 

The value is not that it is exclusive to women, but that it is a networking group or membership that addresses issues that relate to women and provides practical guidance, tips and training.

Having a group of this sort creates a safe place for women to come and learn together, discuss topics they would not normally discuss and gain new perspectives and meet people they would not usually have access to. This holds so much value and creates opportunities that you can’t get through any other setting.

  • Is there a risk of preaching to the choir within these groups? If not, why? If so, how should the managers of these groups address this issue? 

If there is, then there is a problem. These groups should not be about preaching any messages. In order to advance society’s views and actions towards gender equality, we need to equip women with the skills and confidence to succeed, by creating value adding forums that address real pain points and skill sets.

Men should be equally involved in conversations and forums like this wherever possible.

  • What’s your biggest networking tip for others looking to make the most of these types of groups and memberships?

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Attend as many events as possible and you will start making genuine connections with people. Last year, I put my hand up to volunteer at an organisation named Girls in Tech and I am now a part of an amazing community of women who volunteer their time to put on many events throughout the year within Australia, including panel discussions, conferences featuring amazing speakers and training sessions to gain new skills. If you can find organisations like this that continuously release content and events, get involved wherever possible. 

Here are my top tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and spark up conversations with people you don’t know
  • If there is a speaker at an event you look up to and can learn from, go up and talk to them, exchange information and keep in touch with them
  • LinkedIn is your best friend; connect with everyone you meet at these events and engage with their content regularly
  • Put your hand up to volunteer for events wherever possible
  • When you attend something valuable, take notes, write a post about it on LinkedIn, tag anyone else who was in the room with you and use relevant hashtags

About the expert

Carmel Zein has been a content and brand marketing professional for over 7 years, specifically in ecommerce sectors.

She has built a career around fostering meaningful relationships, supporting initiatives around diversity and inclusion, women in tech and mums in business all whilst maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being a mother to her daughter.

Since becoming a mother, Carmel developed a passion around living a sustainable, healthy and fit lifestyle and in honour of this, set out to create a business that makes it easy for others to live within this ethos, whilst still remaining stylish and current with ecommerce trends.

Amina Rose is an online sustainable retail business with a unique difference of personalisation. The first product is 100% eco friendly yoga mats made from hemp and jute which can be personalised with individual names.