MELVILLE, N.Y. - As a woman in a male-oriented business, Lindsay M. Heller says she knows what it's like to be mistaken for a cashier "simply because of my sex."

Still, Heller, general manager at J Barbera Tobacconist in Garden City, points to a resource she says has helped her break the gender barrier - social media.

Sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have helped her establish her personal brand and "assert myself globally in the tobacco industry," where she serves on executive advisory boards and speaks at major events.

Indeed, a new report from LinkedIn, with more than 100 million members, says that women in some nontraditional fields are particularly well-connected, more so than their male counterparts, with the same true for men in some female-dominated industries. This is based on a networking "savviness" formula that considers the ratio of the number of men's to women's connections on LinkedIn, and the ratio of men to women in given fields. So in an industry where 45 percent of profiles are women's, but women have 70 percent of the connections, women would be considered the savvier networkers.

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In industries dominated by one sex, the "minority sex" may just be networking harder to break in, say the LinkedIn data crunchers.

Chandlee Bryan, a career coach and co-author of "The Twitter Job Search Guide," says that social media "can be a huge barrier buster." Engaging and sharing know-how can demonstrate professional chops and "really bring down the walls," she said.

The "magic number" of connections on the site is 50, which shows you have a solid professional network, said Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's connection director. The next tier to shoot for - 500, she said.

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