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Contrary to popular belief, “women’s business networks” don’t always work

Web Watch has been a member of any number of work-related groups and networking circles.

Usually, they serve some greater purpose in advancing one’s career via seminars and learning opportunities. 

But the networking aspect of them always felt a little… off. 

Very clique-ish, especially from an outsider’s viewpoint looking in.  If you didn’t already know someone who knew someone, your ability to join in all the fun and reindeer games would be similar to what you probably went through in high school, with the same insecurities in trying to make it in with the In Crowd.

Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women
Some Assembly Required:
A Networking Guide for Women

And it appears that some things haven’t really changed.

According to a SIMMONS COLLEGE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE,  women don’t believe that a company-sponsored women’s networking group is of any particular value.

Now, that is a general statement — they DID find value when the group offered training, mentoring, coaching opportunities – as well as visibility with upper-management.  But the general consensus was that the companies the women belonged to had to be actively participate in advancing/assisting the networking group in achieving these goals.

Here are some of the findings of the survey:

  • 21% thought that a women’s network was very effective in meeting the goals of the network. 
  • 16% thought that the women’s network was very effective in promoting women

These don’t seem like very high numbers, do they?  Well, they’re not when compared to the other two categories of “Not at all effective” and “somewhat effective”.

In fact, why have a “women’s” network at all?  40% of respondents said that having men in their group increased emphasis on the advancement of women (and 44% didn’t see any negative effect with having men involved anyway).

So what are the primary reasons for a women’s business network to exist?  In order to the perceived level of involvement and effectiveness, from Highly to Less So:

  • Networking
  • Develop women professionally
  • Retain/promote women
  • Address issue of work-life balance
  • Build strategic relationships
  • Help women plan careers
  • Facilitate women assisting women
  • Advocate for women in the organization
  • Recognize talent and leadership potential
  • Create visibility with upper-management