Women’s Networking Groups – Old-fashioned or still needed?

Following my recent posts about tips for successful networking, I thought I would write about women’s networking.

A few months ago, I was asked to lead on a women’s networking group on behalf of the Federation of Small Businesses, partnering with a successful, female-run PR company. I accepted because the FSB needs to offer more networking events, and because I have personally had positive experiences at women-only sessions.

We wrote a joint press release, which was published on some newspaper sites, and also by online business digest, Bdaily. I was pleased to get a bit of publicity for the new campaign, and then horrified that this endeavour was criticised, mostly by women. This led to a long discussion piece being written by a Bdaily correspondent (you can read that here: https://bdaily.co.uk/opinion/17-08-2015/bdaily-long-read-exploring-the-importance-of-womens-networking-in-the-north-east/)

What surprised me was that those against women-only networking saw it as old-fashioned and potentially sexist. I don’t see it that way at all. Attending these events doesn’t prevent you from going to mixed events too, and as the Secretary for my local FSB branch, I organise exactly that. I’ve also started attending a breakfast event which includes a marketing masterclass, which I thoroughly enjoy.

However, there are aspects of ladies’ networking that I like. When I first started networking, I found that there were a lot of men in attendance, who took over and made it an intimidating experience. For new networkers, it can be nice to go to a single-sex event and get talking to someone who may then recommend a mixed group to you, and when you go you’ll know a familiar face.

It also gives attendees the opportunity to have a frank discussion about issues facing women in business, which sadly does still exist, and talk about how they’ve dealt with them.

Finally, women network in a different way to men, and this is true at mixed events as well. Women work to establish relationships that will be mutually beneficial and long-lasting, and can build a supportive group.

I’m away that this is a contentious topic, but I believe that women’s networking groups can exist peacefully and their members enjoy the fruits of these as well as mixed events.

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