I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I have just returned from the latest Business Chicks breakfast at the Westin in Sydney. Business Chicks is an Australia-wide organisation for women in business and a very successful one at that. As one of few female editors of a business magazine, I have always had a fundamental issue with ‘women in business’. This is not a new or particularly unique viewpoint, but I’m going to share it anyway: I don’t think women should group themselves into a organisation on the basis of their sex. I think it’s even less appropriate in a business context because it’s an area where we have been debating the ‘glass ceiling’ and the fact that the best person should get the top job, regardless of whether they’re a he or a she, for years. In 2009, I’d like to think we’re getting past all that.
Successful and inspirational female entrepreneurs grace the pages of my magazine month in, month out, but it’s not because they’re women, it’s because they’re good at what they do. I recently spent a lot of time debating whether or not to run our forthcoming (March issue) feature on what women wear to work because I would be mortified if anyone thought this was a patronising article about why women should dress well to get ahead in their careers. Far from it, that particular feature is one I think our female readers will enjoy and one where businesswomen talk about no longer having to power dress to be taken seriously at the office.
Why I’m in a dilemma is this: there were almost 900 women at that superbly organised breakfast so there’s obviously a need, or a desire, for these kind of networking events. Everyone certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves—even me—but I had to a draw a line when the delightful Natarsha Belling, newsreader and MC, told everyone to get up from their seats and dance while some loud music (Beyonce maybe? I forget as I was so horrified!) was pumped out over the speakers. I stood there being very British perhaps, and not joining in.
This is not me being derogatory about Business Chicks or indeed its well respected founder (and ‘chief chick’) Emma Isaacs; more a discussion of why women want to be a part of these groups and what they get out of them. I’d love to hear your comments. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and too quickly jumped to the conclusion that these organisations are sexist, unnecessary or old-fashioned. One thing they’re certainly not is unpopular.
What you can be sure of is that ‘women in business’ will never be a section of Dynamic Business magazine while I’m the editor. If you think I’m wrong, please let me know why!