Rock Center   |  May 24, 2013

'Stiletto network’ creates ‘best version’ of members

Rock Center’s Kate Snow explores the growing trend of powerful – and soon to be powerful – women who join together to support and invest in each other in what one author is calling "stiletto networks."

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> dominated world of business has given us durable expressions, among them, the old boys club and the glass ceiling . the people you are about to meet are women who are reshaping american business. doing it together and in the process they are rebranding networking itself. here again is kate snow .

>> reporter: when marsha goes to work every morning, she accessorizes her office attire with hard hat and work boot. in a business dominated by men, she made it to the top after her person life fell apart.

>> my house was foreclosed, no money in the bank , my car was repossessed with the driveway.

>> reporter: the woman worked odd jobs until she hit gold, or at least you aron. picking up scrap metal .

>> yes, from the allies, i rented a budget rent-a-truck, picked up materials and turned it into cash.

>> we're 250, to 300 people and over $200 million in revenue.

>> reporter: but that wasn't enough for marsha . she wanted to pay it forward. five years ago, marsha met chicago restaurant owner rahini day over dinner.nerdinner, but at a women 's networking event.

>> i hadn't belonged to a single women 's network. in fact, something held me back inherently. i thought if i do good work and hunker down, that's all it takes, and networking is a dirty word , right? i lacked the confidence to do it, to put myself out there.

>> reporter: she wanted to open up a version of her indian latin restaurant, called vermillion in new york city , but she needed cash.

>> women have a harder time to get access to capital. for some reason, they haven't been raise raised economically to be in business for themselves, most of the women and have difficulty getting cash. they feel nice girls shouldn't ask.

>> reporter: but rahini gained marsha 's trust and did ask.

>> she was so passionate about her business and so convinced that this was going to work. i invest in people, i invest in ideas, and i invest in profit. no one supported me in the beginning and i guess that's my thing, to help somebody who needs it.

>> reporter: so marsha invested in rahini, and what they are doing is an example of national phenomenon. poker night in downtown manhattan . notice anything unusual? there is a lot of estrogen at these tables, but not the case in america's board rooms. today, 20 female ceos running fortune 500 companies, certainly an improvement, but still only 4% of the total list. these poker games might just represent a way to change those numbers, to get more women starting businesses and climbing to the highest ranks in corporate america .

>> there are finally enough women in the room who have worked hard, made enough of their own money and are willing to take the risks on behalf of another woman.

>> reporter: author pamela reichmreic ryckman is just one of the examples of the stiletto network. the discussions in dining rooms and restaurants have led to multimillion dollar transactions. women helping other women . i think people remember stories of women stepping on other women to get to the top.

>> i used to work in consulting and finance, and i heard all of the stories about ball busting, steam rolling female bitches. i think historically when there was only room at the top for one woman at the top of the company or the industry, the system wasn't set up for women to be best friends . it was going to be you or me, not you and me. the system pitted women against each other. now there is enough room women can breathe.

>> reporter: what looks like a dinner party might better be described as a female power circle. where women introduce themselves, talk about their dreams and invest in each other, literally.

>> they can be themselves, talk about their kids, their families, their homes and their dresses and their hair and their shoes without feeling like someone is going to say, oh, she's not serious, or she's unprofessional. the professional and personal are one.

>> reporter: two years ago, iya bedar was thinking about growing a new business. this engineer had a new idea. the circuit were called little bits .

>> the pulse, the roller switch.

>> reporter: kids or designers with no lodge of electronics can make things light up or buzz or move.

>> reporter: anybody can to this?

>> anybody can do it.

>> reporter: not everyone can get the financial backing to start a company from the ground up. someone in her network led her to investor joann wilson .

>> i love what you are doing, totally understand and think it's brilliant. i'm in.

>> reporter: joann has invested 35 companies, most created by women . both joann and isa, for all changed in the business world, there are still barriers for women looking for investors.

>> i was asked when i was pitching, do you have a boyfriend? what does your boyfriend do?

>> reporter: has another woman ever asked you that?

>> no, never.

>> if a man on the other side of the family asks you an inappropriate question? are you married? are you going to have a children soon? i don't want to invest in you if you are going to have children soon. until they ask that a man, things will not change.

>> little bits , it wasn't just about the money. the rolodex was important too. as the company grows big every, joann has ideas on everything from hiring to marketing.

>> i have three kids of my own, but in many ways, all of these investments are like my other children.

>> reporter: this isn't something you do lightly. i'm sure you don't invest in every company?

>> no, i'd be broke.

>> reporter: all the women we met talk about paying it forward. for rahini it's about giving clips to train chefs in her restaurant.

>> i myself will mentor them on the financials of launching a restaurant with the hope of creating more women leaders.

>> for iya, it means mentoring and workshops for the next generation of high-tech entreprene entrepreneurs. if it inspires women around the country, even better. can form a stiletto network?

>> anyone. you don't have to be a ceo, you don't have to be wealthy. the women have given each other courage and allowed each other to be the best version of themselves.

>> kate snow reporting for us once again tonight. in the