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Why women need women-only networks

Lynne Fernquest takes a look at the growing importance of women-only networking.

What do you think of women’s networking events?

I was asked that question soon after becoming The Bath Chronicle’s first female editor in its 250 year history.

Immediately I said I wasn’t a fan. In fairness at the time I would have turned up my nose at men-only networking events too.

I also felt uncomfortable, that by endorsing women-only networking events I was admitting defeat. Hadn’t we fought a 100 year battle for workplace equality? Surely women now held their own in the world of work and the days of sisterhood-only support were numbered?

If only that were the case. The facts told me I was wrong.

Unfortunately the facts make for some grim reading. As far as gender equality is concerned it isn’t just an uneven playing field, one could argue that women aren’t even on the field.

  • Across the globe women do two thirds of the world’s work, but receive one tenth of the world’s income.
  • Women also own less than 1% of the world’s property.
  • Women account for two thirds of the 1.2 billion people currently living in poverty and nowhere in the world do women earn equal wages to men.
  • In Europe there is still a 25% pay gap in like-for-like work and the 2014 Global Gender Gap Report states that women won’t bridge that gap for another 80 years.
  • Women hold fewer than 13% of the world’s parliamentary seats and in the UK only 19% of our MPs are women.

Women make up more than 50% of the UK population – don’t we need more female influence not less?

Shouldn’t we applaud not criticise the women who want to make positive change for tomorrow’s women. And if motivated teams deliver the best results then surely women are best placed to push forward on behalf of others, aren’t they?

As the figures show we do have a long way to go, but great strides have been made and International Women’s Day on March 8th highlights the successes achieved and the challenges ahead.

Yes you guessed it, I’m now a fan of women having their own day too.

This year IWD organisers are calling on us all to #BeBoldForChange. What a great message – not only providing a nod to the women who’ve already been bold on our behalf, but also encouraging us to do the same for our daughters and granddaughters.

If women collaborating with other women is part of the solution then I’m embracing that option.

Let’s not confuse social networking with business networking though.

You’ll of course be disappointed if your focus is on strategic change in the workplace in 2017 and the networking event is all about Prosecco and cupcakes. Do your research.

Think carefully about what you want from your networking – be clear about its purpose and your vision.

Don’t be afraid to dip your toe in either because there are plenty of networking events to choose from.

One of many events celebrating International Women’s Day is being held at The Pump Room in Bath on the day itself. The audience will be able to quiz a panel of local businesswomen on the challenges they have faced achieving success in their professions as well as how they have managed to combine work with fulfilling personal lives.

The panel includes TV newscaster Imogen Sellers, Entrepreneur’s Godmother Alison Edgar, Bath Chronicle editor Rachael Sugden, former mayor of Bath and business owner Loraine Morgan-Brinkhurst MBE and Olympic Silver medallist Heather Fell.

If you would like to join in the debate with inspirational women in glorious surroundings then click here for more details and ticket information.

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