Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why have womens' networks been growing in popularity recently?

After giving the same soundbyte to two media outlets in 2 days, I figured it was worth a blog post.

In the past, we heard too often about the senior executive woman who climbed the ladder in high heels, then kicked the ladder away, letting it fall on someone else! Their philosophy was "I got here without any special help, I never had any issue being a woman, so where would be the benefit of singling out women out for special treatment". This was demotivating for up-and-coming women who saw role models of a type of female leader they didn’t want to become.

This has changed slowly but surely in the last 10 years. I am seeing a big push among senior women leaders who are passionate about mentoring to help emerging women leaders gain access to networks, role models and leadership opportunities.

In practice, this looks like senior-level women founding or sponsoring their company’s women's network, and showing up to participate as sponsors, mentors and guest speakers. They are gaining the attention of leaders at all levels as they talk up a compelling business case: that companies with more women leaders do better, and that women now make up the majority of college graduates and the early-career pipeline of leadership candidates. As a result of their influence, more companies funding their women's initiatives.

If you're not a senior exec and you want to launch a women's network at your company, don't let that stop you. There are women's networks that have been founded and funded through the efforts of volunteers at all levels. What they have in common is energy and passion to drive the initiatives, and to influence their leadership to gain legitimacy and funding.

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