Taking the lead
Many networks also have mentoring programs, and actively encourage more experienced women to share details of their career paths. We found that senior female managers are equally keen to learn about – and meet – the next generation of women leaders.
As one woman stated on a network forum: “If you are not willing to help others in their search for success, how can you expect to get a lift yourself?
“By sharing your journey and exposing your vulnerability you are actually putting your experiences out there for others to learn from. It’s one of the greatest ways to help others.”
Networks were also widely praised for valuing “intersectionality”, a term which encapsulates the overlapping nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender. They often provide access to greater diversity of background and experience than their members may have been used to. Such interactions allowed women the opportunity to better address power and privilege at work and beyond.
As one entry from a network’s blog claimed: “Every time I meet a group of driven women, I am struck by the wonderful variety of experiences and characters, backgrounds and dreams they have. Exploring with them what’s been going on in their lives and where they’re going next helps me to learn and improve too.”
Taking a broader view, away from individual career development, we found that many network members see their networks as a way to make the business world a fairer place for women and girls. As one member commented: “For many years I was playing directly into the patriarchal game without ever noticing.”
She added: “So next time you feel small, overwhelmed and confused, please remember this: it is not who you are. There’s an enormous [amount] of energy and drive inside of you”.
Overall then, we found that women’s business networks are seen by their members as spaces that can bring about collective change and transformation, with immense professional and personal value. They are seen as a trustworthy and accessible source of advice and information on everything from improving work-life balance to motherhood, or working from home to starting a business – and providing a supportive environment in which to prosper.
This article was written by Elina Meliou, Reader in Organisational Behaviour, Aston University and Florence Villesèche, Associate Professor, Copenhagen Business School. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.