Why I Think It Is Still So Important For Women To Network With Other Women
I’m going to start with something controversial, in the hopes you will hear me out on this one. The recent news story about girls wanting to join the Boy Scouts concerns me in that our efforts to be part of the boy’s club, we will forget the value of being part of the girl’s club.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am by no means saying it’s not important that society be inclusive. However, I want to stress that women, and girls, in particular, derive an incomparable benefit from connecting with groups of other women or girls. For those of us who were Girl Scouts or in similar groups growing up, many of us had amazing role models as troop leaders who inspired us to do more, to be more, and to strive to be a smart, strong, independent woman. My experience was so great that I myself became a leader. It was never about girls vs. boys or perpetuating stereotypes. It was about teaching young girls to be bold and self-sufficient ─ all in a safe environment among peers without the distraction of boys. Maybe it’s me, but at 12, I would have been VERY distracted by the boys.
So why did this story hit such a strong chord with me?
As the producer of events dedicated to women, the most common question I get in the field is “why are women’s events even necessary? This comment seems to be bubbling up more and more, and I fear that the trend to move away from something that has proven value for women will continue to gain momentum. The motivation behind the question varies, but it largely revolves around the notion that by singling ourselves out as women, we are not integrating with the men who should be a part of the conversation. I’ve addressed this in a blog in the past, but feel it needs to be re-addressed.
As background, I’ve been hosting Women of the Channel events for over 10 years. I’ve been to all of them so I’m partial to the value of what we deliver. But, it’s about more. It’s about all the women’s events, meet ups and peer groups that have formed over the past few years, and there are more of them than ever before. I’ve had the pleasure to attend several of these, including international events, and one thing is clearer than ever to me: There is still a tremendous value in women coming together with other women. Here are some reasons why I believe this to be true:
1. Role models are critical.
Hearing stories from successful women and how they got where they are has proven an effective method of helping women overcome their natural fears and self-doubt. Knowing that a successful VP or C-Level woman had to overcome issues in work and in life, just like you, can be really inspiring for most women. I hear this comment over and over from women who saw someone speak at a women’s event and their story led them to take an action, make a move, or reach out to someone with a result of personal or professional growth. Doesn’t matter if you are early in your career or seasoned like me, we all learn from other’s stories.
2. Networking with women is invaluable.
We all know we need to network within and outside of our company, and certainly with a diverse group of people. What I will tell you is that having a circle of women that you can rely on to guide you and to have your back, can be extremely valuable to your career growth. Women who belong to women’s groups will go out of our way to help each other with connections, job opportunities and advice. I have heard too many stories to count from successful women, most of whom will tell you that their “tribe” was critical to their success.
3. It’s like free therapy.
I’ve seen it at every women’s event during the casual networking time … the therapy sessions. For some reason, women will tell their deepest secrets, foibles, fears and frustrations to total strangers and feel much better for it. I’ve done it a hundred times, and I’ve been told a hundred personal stories. These are the stories about struggling with friends, family, marriage, illness and even difficult work situations. In the 12 years I’ve been managing IT events (hence, male events), I’ve rarely seen that dynamic between men or between men and women.
4. Women’s networking events are uplifting and motivational.
Women’s events are designed to be uplifting and motivational by nature, and even though we do cover business topics, we walk out with a desire to do more and do better both personally and professionally. Women need to lift up other women, and we have so much to learn from each other. The days of competing are waning and there are scores of studies in Harvard Business Review showing that by attending a women’s-only event, women can achieve higher wages, more promotions and better job satisfaction.
If you follow HBR, Forbes and Fortune, you will find some great articles on this topic. Here is a recent one that I love: https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleyzalis/2019/03/06/power-of-the-pack-women-who-support-women-are-more-successful/#875051d1771a
For all the doubters out there, give a women’s event a try and share your experience with me. I would love to hear from you!