“Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus.” We learned this about romance and relationships in the early 1990s. But it’s taken almost another 20 years for women to admit that it’s just as true in our business lives.
“Women do business differently than men. In business, as well as in our personal lives, women are all about relationships,” says Tara Gilvar, founder of B.I.G. (Believe. Inspire. Grow.), a women’s networking organization based in Bernardsville, and the keynote speaker for the sixth annual Women’s Leadership Summit sponsored by the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, November 10. The day-long event will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Somerset. Cost: $125. Register online at www.mcrcc.org.
“No Boundaries, No Limits” is the theme for this year’s event. Speakers and panelists will discuss a variety of subjects involving how women in business can break the glass ceiling in their professional and personal lives. The day will also include a health and wellness expo where health screenings and information will be available. Attendees can choose from two of seven roundtable discussions on a variety of topics such as entrepreneurship and social media. Roundtable table facilitators include Kimberlee Phelan, Kate Sweeney, Holly Jerome, Sarah Cirelli, Kathleen Cashman, Ilana Levitt, Jacqui Klein, and Jennifer Passannante. Gilvar will give the keynote speech during lunch.
“Women who receive support, education, and networking opportunities always do better in business than those who don’t,” says Gilvar, who founded her networking organization in 2009. It has grown from one group meeting in her home in Bernardsville to more than 40 chapters, or “pods” as Gilvar calls them, in five states: New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
A 1985 graduate of Boston College, where she majored in political science, Gilvar began her career in marketing at a Boston-based advertising agency. She worked to build brand awareness for consumer products for national companies such as Sylvania Lighting, Veryfine Juice, Safety 1st, and the Timberland Company. She also worked as a marketing consultant for Eddie Bauer, Harvard Medical School, and Prudential Securities, among others.
When she left the corporate world to raise her three children, she planned to continue her career on a freelance basis. But the reality, she says, is that “I did only a handful of jobs in several years.” She decided to use her marketing and public relations skills as a volunteer, but found these results unsatisfying as well. “I raised a lot of money for different organizations, but I never felt I got any thanks or appreciation. All I ever heard was, ‘Okay, now can you do it again?’”
The isolation got to her before long. “When you are working alone, without a proper support system and you are forced to choose between successfully maintaining your family responsibilities or pursuing your own professional passions, of course your family wins out,” she says.
#b#Who did you want to be?#/b# Sitting in traffic one day, Gilvar read a bumper sticker on the car in front of her. “Remember Who You Wanted to Be,” it said. It took Gilvar back to her college days when she “believed the sky was the limit.” She went home, looked through her E-mail contacts, and sent a note to every woman on it.
“We are smart. We have something to offer. Let’s get together and talk about it,” the note said. A few days later almost 40 women gathered in her living room to discuss the pursuit of their business dreams. “We found out so much about each other that you don’t talk about in school. One woman had a business degree from Columbia. Others had law degrees or had been vice presidents of corporations. I knew if we put all of these resources, intelligence, and energy together we could build something,” she says.
Gilvar realized that groups such as the one she had just started could provide women with better balance, more personal fulfillment, and the intellectual camaraderie that they often do not find, even if they are in the workplace.
#b#Value the woman’s approach.#/b# One of the biggest mistakes a woman can make in business is to try to do business like a man, says Gilvar. “By nature women want to develop relationships rather than compete. Business today is about getting to know, like, and trust the other person. If you build these kind of relationships with the people you do business with, your company can withstand the test of any economic downturn.”
A “male” approach to a networking event might be to collect as many business cards as possible. The typical woman’s approach to the same event is to look for one or two important contacts and then work to develop them. “If you say to a woman, ‘let’s go to a networking event,’ a lot of times she will be turned off. But if you say, ‘let’s get together for lunch and see how we can work together,’ this is something she understands and is good at,” says Gilvar.
#b#Embrace your dual roles.#/b# The home office in business is no longer a novelty. The number of people who work from home at least some of the time has grown past 11 million, according to U.S. Census statistics. Women should not be embarrassed about making a business phone call with the noise of children or other home activities in the background, says Gilvar. “This is our reality. It is not unprofessional to admit that we have personal lives. In fact, to pretend that we don’t would be false.”
Women have amazing instincts — not just for business but for people and for situations, Gilvar says. “We hear the facts and we often instinctively know the answer to a problem, even if those facts don’t seem to support it. As women we have to learn to not give up, to find the facts that support those instinctive reactions. The best way for women to succeed in business is to always hold true to our instincts.”