Elizabeth Moody got her job through one. Carolyn Jacobson helped a friend get hired through another. Anne Haulsee picked up new clients, Tanya Roberts found several role models and Pat Affens shed her guilt at being a working mother -- all through participation in Washington's growing web of women's networks.
"Men have been networking for years," says land-use consultant Fran Abrams, 35, who heads a working mother's network in Olney, Md. "They've formed a close group of fellows who met on the golf course or at the club. But, until recently, women haven't made that kind of setting for themselves."
These "old-boy" networks are well-known sources of job referrals, interagency contacts and advice exchanges. The emerging "new-girl" networks provide career women with similar advantages.
In the past few years -- as women have joined the labor force in record numbers -- dozens of women's networks have formed, linking members with similar concerns, career goals and needs. Just at the term "parenting" has become a common part of the modern vocabulary, "networking" has become a catchword for mutual help and support.
"There's a new realization that women have to help each other," explains Moody, 32, who says she "got her foot in the door" at the Republican National Committee because the woman who was interviewing job applicants also belonged to the National Council of Career Women.
"When she saw NCCW on my resume, she said anyone connected with that organization was someone she wanted to talk to. We had a great interview, and I got the job."
"Networks provide a trememdous exchange of information," says attorney Lynne Finney, 38, who has helped set up women's networks around the country for the president's interagency task force on women. "You get to know other women personally and professionally so you can really help each other in a variety of ways."
Formerly the first and only female director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, Finney organized "The Network" about four years ago when she discovered that her male colleagues were constantly getting calls from friends who wanted them to speak to a group, recommend someone for a job or latch onto an investment.
"I was unhappy that I wasn't getting those kinds of calls because I wanted to get into that power structure," said Finney, who invited four high-level women friends to lunch and within six months had more than 50 people in The Network.
Business cards and resumes fly furiously at their monthly luncheon meetings, where usually three dozen high-powdered women discuss topics ranging from high finance and career advancement to the proper way to ask a man for a date.
Members announce job openings and receive a membership directory listing each woman's training, interests and current career title. At the end of the meeting there is a "business card drop" where each woman puts her card into a pile and draws one out. Each woman contacts the person whose card she's drawn and meets her for lunch.
"It gives all of us a tremendous high to hear the wonderful achievements of each member," Finney says. "So many of us are always 'the first' or 'the only' women doing what we're doing, and that can be a lonely feeling. But if you can share ideas with women who are in the same boat, you learn that your problems are not unique and you can find out how to solve them."
Networks help ease the sense of alienation women may feel when working in a male-dominated field, says Tanya Roberts, who formed Washington Women Economists. "Identifying with other women who are melding their careers and personal lives," she adds, "helps you realize it's possible to be a well-rounded person."
"Through networking you don't have to re-invent the wheel," says Jane Evans, 35, a manager at IBM and a member of the United Jewish Appeal's career women's networking program. "I have two boys, and I'm always juggling home and work life. You can pick up helpful tips from other working mothers." h
Another advantage is receiving help that is "devoid of sexual overtones," confides one network member. "If I ask a male colleague out to lunch because I need advice, he wonders what I really want. With someone I've met at a woman's network, that's not a problem.
"And if I have a dumb question, I might be afraid to show my ignorance to a man. If I have a woman I can call on for clarification, she can help me look good on my job."
"It's nice to know that there's always a woman in the network who'll know the answer to almost any question," adds Carolyn Jacobson, 29, who belongs to Washington Union Women.
Networks provide a cooperative atmosphere, a respite from the competitiveness of the career world.
"You can trust other women, ask for help and get it," says Peg Downey, assistant director of programs for the American Association of University Women. "In a national network like AAUW you'll always belong and have friends, no matter where you go.
"I re-entered the job market three years ago, and needed to make a new circle of acquaintances who shared my interests," notes Downey, who made those contacts at the Washington Women's Network. "It's a great way to find out about new career opportunities, too."
"Networks tune you into the 'hidden job market,'" says Anne Haulsee, 33, president of the Capitol-area National Association of Women Business Owners. "I have about four card boxes full of contacts, and I've gotten some good leads and contracts as a result."
"You learn about all kinds of projects that people are working on," says Mary Hilton, deputy director of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau. Hilton helped organize "The Feminist Connection," an informal network of government women. "But the big value is the sharing and personal contacts."
"The whole name of the game is getting another job, making more money, or, it you have your own business, getting new clients," says Margaret Scott, who is in her 50s and owns her own business.
"I'm pleased to be a role model to younger women. They ask me how I did it and what are the problems. We get encouragement from each other."
In addition to business tips, job contacts and career-advancement workshops, women's networks provide another invaluable resource: friendship.
"I came to Washington 15 months ago and felt like an outsider," admits free-lance video producer Lydia Kleiner, who joined several networks. "I began to see that the town is a lot smaller than it appears at the start."
"For me, survival depends on having a support group," sums up Susan Schneider, 36, a special assistant to HEW Secretary Patricia Harris. "It's a tremendous feeling to have people who you can share your feelings of vulnerability with. It's nice to have such good friends."