For all the years that women fought for equality, it seems like women send the wrong message when they organize women’s conferences, clubs, and networking groups. If men organized men’s business conferences and men’s networking groups, heads would roll. Forget everything you think about equal rights and women’s lib. This isn’t an article about how men spent centuries oppressing and excluding women and how it’s time to turn the tables. There is no discussion of glass ceilings and old boy’s networks.
Ideally, we’re all part of the human race. We all have equal possibilities in the world based on our abilities and desire. We all have an equal playing field. But realistically, this isn’t a perfect world, and there is a need for groups that ultimately strengthen individual potential and create more successful, confident business people. Here are seven reasons why everyone should embrace and encourage women’s business clubs, meetings, and conferences.
These aren’t exclusive groups -- they are special interest groups. No one says that men aren’t allowed, there are no “girl power” chants, and they don’t have topics like, “Male Bashing 101”, “Outsmarting Your Male Boss” or “Feminine Products That Will Change Your Life.” When these groups host speakers, the topics relate to strengthening themselves intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually with ideas that make them more confident and balanced. No supportive boss, employee, or husband can argue that improving the outlooks for women isn’t beneficial. Life is a team sport. When you strengthen one member of the team, the entire team wins.
Women’s groups improve confidence and self-esteem. Self-esteem is a critical failure component for businesswomen. Even though studies show that women in general have sharper problem-solving and multi-tasking capabilities, the high occurrence of poor self-esteem in women keeps them from reaching their potential at every level from asking for the dollar amount they are worth to seeking out advancement. Women’s groups welcome dialogue that acknowledges those issues and provides solutions.
Women more readily share and celebrate small victories in both personal and professional areas in female-only environments. In a world where there are too few supportive bosses, and where fathers, husbands, and children don’t understand how much women need their support, small victories shared in an intimate gathering of women are the spark that ignites hope in their hearts. The little victories are the chances to celebrate someone’s success — even yours!
Relationships help even the playing field. When people get an opportunity to know others better, they find peer mentors, role models, and friends. It doesn’t matter how much education you have, what race you are, or your marital status — relationships are the gateway to realizing what is possible in our own lives when we see people just like us tackling similar hurdles. Women’s groups create a place that is comforting and helpful to women while they expand their circle of friends and influence to all people.
Networking isn’t just about promoting your business — it’s about building relationships. If men are networking properly, the attendees at these women’s group understand whom they can recommend when one of their friends needs a referral for a reputable business. Most people want value, quality, great service, and respect from businesses they patronize. Women judge those qualities critically and will openly promote businesses who provide them, regardless of whether they are owned by a man or a woman.
Some women are too intimidated by co-ed networking environments to participate. They experience a paralyzing fear of the unknown or have memories of frightening experiences such as unwelcome advances or rude side comments from the opposite sex that make them feel “less than worthy”. Making some friends in the security of women’s networking groups gives them the courage to venture out into chamber of commerce socials when they know a few familiar faces — again expanding the circle and helping to build confidence in others.
Societal issues continue to restrict the potential for many women. Women make up the majority of custodial parents in single-parent families. They must put the needs of their children ahead of professional advancement — they often choose quality of life and a less-demanding career in exchange for less income and reduced job satisfaction. Women are also more likely to have experienced oppressive home situations where they are taught that they have limited options or aren’t as capable as men. Societal issues are the 1,800-pound hammer that squashes the determination that it takes to make something of yourself in this world. When adverse conditions, financial hardship, and oppression are a part of a woman’s world, she can draw hope from other women who encourage her and share their stories. Women’s groups provide the opportunity for women to gather and create a safe place so that she might share her story to those who will be blessed by hearing it.
When you examine to scope of these issues and benefits, it’s easy to understand that women’s groups cultivate stubborn determination and hope. When you combine those two components, you have potential — amazing potential. Women’s groups are about giving their members a reason to believe when they run out of reasons. These gatherings feed their attendees’ minds and souls and rekindle the fire in their servant hearts when the challenges and struggles of daily life threaten to dim the embers. Who wouldn’t want that for their mom, daughter, wife, coworker, employee, or boss?
Carrie Perrien Smith is the owner of Soar with Eagles (www.soarhigher.com), a performance consulting company located in Rogers, Arkansas. She also is a professional speaker who focuses on topics that equip entrepreneurs with skills and ideas that will impact their bottom line.
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