You know I don’t like to be controversial or provoke reaction of any kind, but…
The last time I blogged on the subject of women in business it kicked off big style. My spiel on networking group Business Chicks got a few people hot under the collar and it was a great debate, although it has left me fearing that if I dared to set foot in such an event again I might get lynched. The subject of women-only business events however, still bugs me.
So last week, when I met Mandy Foley-Quin, winner of this year’s Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year award (we’ll ignore the fact it was a women-only award), I just had to ask for her views. And hoorah, she agrees with me! She even went as far as to say that such groups probably didn’t help change the fact that there are less than 10 percent women on the boards of Australia’s top 200 companies. “If they stopped doing that there might be more women at the top of the tree,” she said, adding: “I find it boring. I wouldn’t have a dinner party with just women and I don’t really think about someone in terms of whether they’re a man or a woman. I’d rather network with business people. Having women-only is like having a group for left-handed people or only people with size 9 feet!”
Kiwi Mandy, who is CEO of Sydney’s top hospitality staffing and training company Stedman’s, said that while she wasn’t a fan herself, she could see that they worked for some people and why not? “I can understand that some people feel safer in that environment and if that’s what works for them, go for it.”
Back to Business Chicks, an article in Saturday’s Australian on 28-year-old founder Emma Isaacs left me agreeing that her career success is indeed inspiring (the headline ‘Chicks come out of shells’ did make me cringe though). But I still don’t feel, despite all the blog comments, that anyone’s given me a definitive answer to the question: Why are women-only business networking groups necessary and do they do more good than harm?