Fortunately, up to 80% of executive and board roles are actually filled by networking—and there is more demand than ever for women in the C-suite and boardroom.
Networking can help you make connections with other people who may have opportunities for career advancement, skill development, new partnerships, and other opportunities you might not otherwise have access to. Networking can be difficult for women in male-dominated industries, which has led many women to turn to women’s networking groups.
What are the benefits to joining a women’s networking group? Learn more below.
It’s rare to find other people who have endured the same experiences you have, whether in your personal or professional life. Finding people who share those experiences can be validating, and can help you learn how to handle difficult situations better when they arise. It can take a long time to form genuine connections with others, especially in the workplace—but there is a way to accelerate the process.
Women’s networking groups can fast-track the pursuit of forging genuine connections with others because many professional women face similar obstacles. Nothing brings people together quite like shared experiences, and it can be validating to hear other women going through the same problems you have struggled with in the past or present.
Let’s face it: it’s impossible for men to understand what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace. Men can be supportive and advocate for women, but they will never truly be able to understand the problems women face every day in and out of work.
Susan Coskey’s shared her strategy of bonding with male coworkers through sports, where she was praised for being direct and competitive. But when she took those same virtues to the office, she was told she was being too “aggressive”—despite male colleagues being praised for those same characteristics.
If you’re looking to form genuine connections, a women-only networking group can provide you with a space to do so, quickly.
At Athena, we believe that being vulnerable and opening up to others provides an opportunity to form deeper connections that may otherwise be impossible. It can be terrifying to open up about your experiences in or out of the workplace, but speaking up about such issues may help other women feel heard and help you overcome the problems in front of you.
Unfortunately, many women have had to tolerate toxic working cultures, sexual harassment, and other situations women commonly find themselves in, even outside of the professional world. Women’s networking groups can provide a place to talk through such issues and devise solutions to combat them.
Additionally, woman-only meetings have a completely different tone and mood than male-dominated meetings. Women’s networking groups often focus more on finding ways to support one another rather than reaching the top of the corporate ladder as quickly as possible, by any means necessary. If you feel like you could use a bit of support in your professional life, a women’s networking group may be what you’re looking for.
Although women can benefit from having male mentors in the field, having a female mentor can help a female mentee feel safer to be vulnerable and ask for help regarding topics that largely impact women, like workplace sexism, unequal pay, voice and executive presence, and more. It’s often difficult to find female mentors, and women professionals who more junior employees look up to may already have too many mentees to take on any more.
The good news is women’s networking groups can provide you with an excellent opportunity to find women who are actively looking for mentees to pay it forward for the advice and support they themselves received. It’s easier to meet women who can serve as a mentor in women’s networking groups, as these groups are usually focused on helping one another, and they provide safe spaces for women to speak up about what they may need.
As Zoa Ordóñez mentions in her blog post, going beyond mentorship to be a sponsor for rising women and diverse leaders can help level the playing field for women, especially women of color. True sponsorship goes far beyond answering questions and brief coaching; it also requires mentors to be a connector to introduce mentees to colleagues to forge relationships, and advocating for a mentee when she may not be able to advocate for herself.
Athena helps women leaders connect with the right person for the right conversation at the right time. Members can search for each other by experience, industry, geography, career goals, role, and more for networking and mentoring. We facilitated over 2,200 introductions last year.
Women’s networking groups provide a place to develop your skillset without training or investment by your company, and without the work-related pressures that often come with skill development. Women’s networking groups supply you with a group of supportive women that can help you along your journey.
Some skills you can learn from networking groups include emerging technologies, design thinking, active listening, and how leaders are responding to emerging hot topics and societal issues. All of these skills are imperative for any woman who wants to advance her career and eventually reach the C-suite.
If you are looking for a women’s networking group to receive professional support from other women like you, Athena Alliance is here for you. Our platform combines a powerful networking community with live and on-demand executive and board education, helping women leaders prepare for whatever the next stage of their career holds. Learn more here.
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