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5 ways to create a successful women’s network

At everywoman, we’ve always known that being part of a network is beneficial from both a career- and personal-growth perspective, but now there’s data to back it up.

A new study, published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that women were more likely to attain high-ranking leadership positions if they had a solid support group of other women.

So, if you’re interested in getting an internal network going in your company, or if the one you’re currently part of hasn’t quite got off the ground, here are 5 steps you should consider:

  1. Choose your team carefully

When Joanna Santinon joined the helm of EY Women’s Network, she grew membership numbers from 1,500 to 3,000. How? By choosing her leadership team carefully. ‘At our first meeting, I made it clear that there was no point in being part of the network unless you were passionate about its growth… those who were left were talented and passionate and drove the network from something that had around four events each year to 60-100.’

  1. Make your network relevant to your company’s mission

Go beyond socialising and make sure your group works to support business goals. For instance, the EY Women’s Network has an external pillar that runs initiatives for clients, while at General Motors, the women’s network helps grow the company’s revenue share of the women’s market.

  1. Start with a bang and stick to a routine

Kick-off with a specific event to invite people to in the first instance, and decide how frequently you want your network to meet. Get these dates in the diary straight away, so people know what to expect.
And don’t feel each meet-up has to be large-scale. As a leadership development expert, Kate Farrow says, ‘It’s great to arrange grand events every now and again, but it is the small and many meet-ups which breathe life into a network.’

  1. Listen and adapt

Ultimately, your members will drive the success of your group so make sure you know what they want. A varied roster of events/speakers/discussions is a good way to appeal to a broad base, then make sure you are creating opportunities to listen to their feedback and adapt your structure accordingly.

  1. Invite men

At Davos 2019, Anino Emuwa, managing director of Avandis Consulting made the pertinent point that ‘Once [a panel] has “woman” in the title, it’s read as “for women”... 80 per cent of people who should be there aren’t really there.’ Men need to be part of the gender equality conversation, so invite and encourage their participation.

 

Company profile:

CMC Markets, a financial derivatives dealer in London, UK, felt their male-dominated company would benefit from a women’s network after an employee survey found that many of their female staff felt they did not enjoy equal benefits to their male counterparts.

So the Diversity and Inclusion committee took action and using everywoman content, a new women’s network was formed, where women were encouraged to join for monthly webinars, seminars and discussions.

Here’s what two of their employees told us about their experiences so far.

 

Colleen Bohm, Operations reporting and control manager

‘I think there are various reasons that women do not feel they have the same opportunities as men, including the impact of taking time out to have children, and possibly a lack of female role models.

I became part of the committee that set up the new women’s network, and our kick-off event was an introduction to both us and the sponsors of the company’s diversity and inclusion committee (both of whom are men who have daughters), then we listened to an extract of an everywoman video: Melissa Di Donato – Knowing what I know now.

We have meetings once a month and choose a theme to centre it around, such as appraisals and emotional intelligence to name a couple. Sometimes we watch relevant webinars or videos or sometimes it is a few slides, which we can discuss in smaller groups.

I have learnt a lot about myself from using the everywoman content, in particular how to build a personal brand. The main benefit, however, is the networking element as there is no hierarchy in the group, which encourages people to speak freely, ask questions, and share their concerns. Now, if there is a particular part of the business I am interested in, I can find out what is happening via the network, plus share ideas and concerns and help connect other people who may need help or information.

It would be great if more women joined; personally, I would like to see men invited to the group, as without regular conversation from both genders we will never achieve gender balance.’

 

Hannah Taylor, UK Marketing manager

‘We’re a financial services and technology company, so there’s a whole host of roles that would typically be male-dominated such as web development, testing functions, programmers and traders. Less than a third of the company are female, so it’s really encouraging that there is a commitment to working with everywoman and actively trying to make women in the company feel comfortable.

I’m part of the Diversity and Inclusion committee so have helped with the setup of our internal women’s network. We focus on really practical things such as managing upwards; how to get the most out of meetings and new year goals. At the moment about 20 women come regularly and the feedback has been really positive. 

The biggest thing I’ve personally gained from the network is having an environment where I talk to people in the company I’d have no contact with otherwise. What we do at CMC Markets is very complex, so to know people that have very specific roles, who I can go to about anything, is really beneficial. 

We also all encourage each other in our development, and it’s a forum to ask questions, in a safe place – we’ve got time for each other and can help each other out.’