TopFem aims at young professionals and students. Chances are high that you joined a student union or student association during your studies. These associations do not only provide friends and guidance throughout your studies, but they offer the opportunity to build a network. These networks are built in an informal setting and probably without you even realizing it.
However, there is one student network everybody knows of – and no, unfortunately it is not TopFem. I am talking about the so called Old Boys Network. These men have met during their studies; they have stayed friends whilst working and sometimes help each other out with career choices. I myself am a member of a student association and I wondered why people never talk about an Old Girls Network. Then I realized that I never thought about my network in that way, which led me to the following research question: what role does the network play for young, ambitious women of a student association?
My research showed that for one third of the interviewees the network was indeed an important reason to become a member of the student association. Another third was aware of the network, but it did not play a leading part in their decision to become a member. Therefore, I concluded that the network does have an important role in the decision to become a member, but other reasons influence just as much that decision.
Secondly, my research revealed that the young women of the association I interviewed are very ambitious. More than half of the interviewees aspire to combine career and family life – a demanding ambition. Most interviewees develop this ambition during their studies.
Lastly, I asked the young women what negative factors they might experience when trying to achieve their ambition. The answers to this question were diverse, as choices of study and personal situations of course differ, yet some answers were given multiple times. Especially the difficulty of finding a job with so many competing young professionals was recognized as a negative factor. When asked what these women would need to achieve their goals, the answers were diverse as well. However, they all agreed that perseverance is the most important trait one needs.
All in all, this leads to the conclusion that the network a student association naturally offers does play a large part in the decision to become a member. Its role might not be an explicit one, but two third of the interviewees were aware of the existence of the network. I believe that the network shall play an important role for these young women as they are all very ambitious. Half of the interviewees suspected that their network could contribute something meaningful to their careers and ambitions. The scarcity of jobs might hold the interviewees back, yet they know what quality they need in that case: perseverance.
Delphine Sirks was in the Leadership Programme 2015-2016 and is now finishing her Master Civil Law and part of the 2016-2017 Board as Secretary. She will shortly depart for Rome to write her thesis with the Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome.