What do you accomplish when you put a group of professional women together in a room? a valid question and now a controversial topic of discussion.
Professional women’s networks have recently come under fire for perpetuating the ideology that women need to be “fixed” in order to be successful in the workplace. These professional groups were for the most part originally formed for women to network and listen to senior women for mentorship and role modelling.
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, co-author of Why Women Mean Business”, was recently quoted as saying, “We have to stop bringing groups of women together to talk about what we know is going wrong.” “We have to convince our companies to stop fixing women.”
Separating women for personal development does not seem to fit with the current line of thinking that “women’s” issues are now business issues and that advancing women’s leadership is of great benefit to an organization. If that is so, what is the best approach for supporting women’s leadership initiatives?
Many women believe that the support from a women’s network is vital to their success, but maybe the overall purpose of these groups is more about sharing and strategizing to change the overall company culture than it is to “fix” women.
Professional women’s groups offer wonderful opportunities for collaboration and support from other women. This remains important. However, in order to shift company cultures, perhaps these networks should also collaborate with mixed gender groups both internally and externaly.
Women’s groups can take the lead on shifting the attitudes and beliefs of companies by shifting their own agenda from how difficult it is to be a woman to creating better opportunities for talent management.
What are your thoughts?