I read an article today by a feminist who encouraged women to say “no” to the idea women could be “separate” and “equal.” She was against the idea that women’s only groups could be beneficial.
I shared that stance for many years. I thought singling women out of the pack into gender specific groups was a mistake. After all, in the workplace and in life women need to be able to work with men. But when I started helping other women succeed, I realized we were creating the good old girls club to match the good old boys club. Why would we emulate that model? Because it works!
If you look at how men became successful, it was in large part due to spending time with other men. Dinners, cigars, saunas, spa, strip clubs, nightclubs, golf clubs -- the list is long. For many years, women were not allowed to belong or attend. This separation allowed the boys to be “themselves” and to mimic each other, for better or worse.
While it’s true we want to get to a point where we don’t have to count the number of CEOs by their gender, that day is along way off. In order to increase the number of women in those buckets, we need a girl’s club.
Many of the tricks that worked for Jack might not work for Jill and vice versa. While Jack has access to a century old club, women do not yet have that luxury. We have to build our clubs. They are different, they are growing, but they are not yet the norm.
Mentoring, coaching and camaraderie can occur in all types of industries. For example, I’ve seen tremendous camaraderie and collaboration between women involved in the direct sales business. Though they are competitors, and some have no business experience while others are corporate executives, lawyers, doctors and beyond, they work to lift each other up by sharing their successful experiences and tricks of the trade. If only we could bottle up that empowerment and share it.
Girl’s club activities are bonding experiences. Bonding is empowering. Women are realizing just how important building relationships with other women are to their lives and careers.
While this movement is growing, it’s important to keep a watchful eye for the real issue in the corporate world. There’s a difference between celebrating women for the sake of appearances and truly investing in their success.
Some corporations or large organizations tout all they’ve done for women, but when you peel back the onion, there’s little progress. Some convince themselves they are helping women by advertising women’s deodorants or sponsoring women’s running events. Those things don’t really move the needle.
Ideally, everyone at the “table” will recognize and respect the value of every person in the room.
To get there, we’ll have to invest in programs and training to change the culture. These are old habits. They are not easy to break. However CEOs and executives can take the first step. They are powerful leaders since they cast the most influential shadow.
It’s time to be vocal and loud. But it’s also important to be clear about what we want and how we want it to happen.
We need to beat our chests and stand tall on the mountaintops as we shout, “look at all I have done, and look at all I am doing.”
The key to this celebration stuff is the DOING.