I was at a networking meeting and another business woman asked me about my monthly support group. She asked me if it was for women only and when I said ‘yes’, a chap jumped in and loudly announced that he totally disagreed with my group as it was sexist.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get much chance to get a word in edgeways to discuss this comment as he proceeded to do the usual “I’ve got a kilt so I’ll come and wear that” and continued to talk about himself with no interest in finding out why my group is set up the way it is.
But how many others feel that women’s business clubs are sexist? How many others do not understand the importance of having gender-based clubs?
For anyone interested, here is why I restrict my business support groups to women only.
Women in business have different needs to men. It’s a fact. Women struggle with issues that generally affect them more than men. These include:
Having go carry on going with hormones playing havoc with emotions including self-confidence, depression, weight fluctuations etc
Running a business and being pregnant has its own set of challenges. How long can you continue to work, how long until you return to work, how to cope with morning sickness, how will your business run effectively whilst you are not able to be on hand 100%.
At the other end from pregnancy is menopause. Some women sail through this but many struggle to the point they feel they can no longer continue. It’s a subject far too detailed to go in to here but anyone who has not experienced the trauma first hand, cannot possibly fully understand.
Yes, you could argue the case on this one, but in general, for a woman to go out the door for business takes a lot more thought and planning than for a man. Think:
- Tights that don’t snag
- Makeup that will last the day and won’t run
- Heels that are comfortable to wear all day
- Consideration as to how any dress wear will be viewed and if it gives out the wrong message– too low cut, too short, too tight.
Whether walking to meetings alone on a dark night or meeting male clients alone, extra thought can be needed. Think Suzy Lamplugh. No, it doesn’t happen often, but the statistics are far higher for women being attacked than men.
Being taken seriously.
Yes, unfortunately, even today, a woman introducing herself in a male dominated environment can be subject to prejudice and outdated presumptions.
Balancing business and family
Yes, I admit a generalisation here as I personally know a few men facing this challenge, but the norm still tends to be the woman is responsible for sorting childcare, support for elderly or ill parents. This leaves them torn and stressed when having to choose between working late or another weekend yet again or taking care of their family.
With all the above aside, women tend in the main to deal with business in a different way to men.
Their selling style is different, they usually prefer a softer approach to selling than a more direct one used by men.
They tend to be more afraid of failing and suffer a lack of confidence. Much of this can stem with others looking at them with scepticism from the start whether they are starting a home-based business which can be viewed as ‘just another hobby’ or entering a male dominated industry.
I could go on and on but hopefully by now you get my drift.
Buy why a women’s only business club?
I run a women’s only club so that other women can come and discuss any issues in confidence and safety with other women who understand what they are going through. They want an environment where they can be open and honest and let the barriers down. They don’t want to go to a meeting where they feel they are once again having to prove themselves and keep up the brave face.
They don’t have to be afraid of ridicule or being seen as weak by male attendees. They also want to come with no hidden agenda, not having a man tell them ‘I noticed a young and attractive lady on her own so had to take the opportunity to come over’. Yes, this still does happen!! And was actually said at the networking meeting I was at!!
My meetings are not sexist. They are providing a need. Women’s only clubs can have more of a supportive, collaborative feel than many mixed groups where the competitive nature can be more apparent.
As mentioned in the article No boys allowed, having a women-only environment opens a comfortable space to start intimate, important conversations that might not otherwise happen. Personal subjects can be discussed that may otherwise be left unsaid if a man were in the room.
I’m sure this post will spark controversy, so if you have an opinion one way or the other, feel free to leave a comment below.