To find a lot of "women's" events/networks too focused on "mums"?

(13 Posts)
knio5 Mon 23-Dec-13 15:37:05

(Namechanged as some of this info may be identifying, a colleague already knows I'm on MN.)

DH and I don't have DCs yet - we're waiting until we're in a more stable position financially, and time is on our side so to speak (early/mid twenties).

But I've been mulling over making this post for a few weeks, after a few things at work happened, and I think perhaps the Feminism section is the bit I want to post in, to discuss, despite never coming here so often in the past.

Basically, I started a new job last year in a company which is growing quickly, they're setting up the UK branch network of a large intl organisation, and one of the things they're doing is a whole load of stuff on women in Snr position stuff.

So, for example, they had a women's networking event at the end of November, with 2 speakers of Snr Managers from the Head Office who spoke about their careers. I found it all very interesting, except that both women had a huge focus on sorting out balance between childcare commitments and work. Or getting to see children and work. Or balancing your husband's fulltime job with your own. I totally understand that once we have DCs, if we do, that will become important, but I felt very... alienated, i suppose is the right word, in that i'd gone to a women's networking event, and 90% of the advice, discussion, was focused on stuff that I can't relate to (yet). I don't know if a men's networking event would have such an imbalance in the topics for discussion - I just can't imagine my male co-graduates on the same scheme sitting through 1.5hrs of stuff about childcare and their wives jobs!

Similarly, last week we had another email thing come around about another event they're planning for January, about stress in the workplace. I looked through the agenda and most of it's about balancing home/work life, "coping mechanisms" for life commitments, and really, again the hints that most of it will be about the same stuff I've outlined above. Not really about managing deadlines at work or relaxation techniques or, well, any of the other stuff I'd been assuming.

I'm not sure if my employers, who are generally amazing so far, are just working this stuff out as they go, and it'll get better.. but at the moment I feel as though some of the first steps i've made in my career to develop it, just because i'm a woman (and these issues do affect women, of course) it's assumed I need advice on this sort of stuff. Because I don't. Not right now. And if I did, maybe my male colleagues should be getting the same advice too.

I'm not sure now where i'm going with this, I suppose I'm just frustrated that something i'd been looking forward to being involved in appears to have nothing relevant to me to offer. does anyone else understand what I mean?

TheDoctrineOfSanta Mon 23-Dec-13 16:12:29

I know what you mean.

I wish those topics were covered at general networking events!

PenguinsDontEatStollen Mon 23-Dec-13 16:24:41

This is one of my big bugbears too. I see parenting as gender neutral. I know women often bear the brunt, but how about treating men as involved and assuming they will be trying to balance things too.

TBH, this was why I always gave female networking stuff at work a swerve, both pre and post kids.

AskBasilAboutCranberrySauce Mon 23-Dec-13 16:43:44

Totally see where you're coming from.

The problem is that being a mother is perceived as the great stumbling block in ensuring that women never shatter the glass ceiling.

More generalised sexism is absolutely blanket denied, even though all the data show that over their lifetime, although women who never have children earn more than women who do, they still earn less than men.

Since 80% of women will become mothers, it is so bloody easy for everyone - media, HR managers and people who organise women's networking events - to totally ignore other issues and just focus on the most obvious glaring ones.

Have you given feedback about this, pointing out that this is happening?

AskBasilAboutCranberrySauce Mon 23-Dec-13 16:45:51

And yes you are right, male colleagues should be getting this sort of stuff too - but of course they don't need it in the main because

a) they will be dumping most of their share of parenting on the women they live with and

b) if they don't, they will still be seen as admirable, committed employees with a worthy hinterland of domestic activity, rather than someone who has re-focused their main commitments on family away from work.

Daddyofone Mon 23-Dec-13 21:12:41

I work for a large corporation in the UK. I noticed a global email re work and parenting last week. Thankfully gender neutral and open to all.

They also give parents of both sex 'family' leave. So if your child is sick or whatever, you can take time off in addition to your payed hols.

I imagine they're an exception, but I hope that gives some hope.

TheDoctrineOfSanta Mon 23-Dec-13 21:51:35

Parental leave for sick children is gender neutral by law, I think.

EBearhug Mon 23-Dec-13 21:57:14

Our women's networking focusses mostly on different parts of the business and how high-flying women got to where they did, and what they do, and what skills they felt they needed and so on.

Many of them do mention having children as part of it - it is a life-changer, and it does mean you've got yet more things to juggle - but it's very rarely more than a brief, passing mention. (Which I'm glad about, as I don't have children, and they already mostly make me feel totally inadequate and unworthy as it is. Which I know isn't the point of it all. smile) There's far more about how to gain relevant experience, and what things to focus on in your development plan.

freyasnow Mon 23-Dec-13 22:17:15

Surely the vast majority of women do, during their working careers, have to deal with essential work outside of the workplace that they do have to balance with their career? It isn't just mothers but also women who care for elderly or disabled people. I can see that it is very important that other issues are covered at a networking event for any particular group of people (not just at networking events aimed at women), but primary caring responsibilities surely need more than a brief mention? It should be the norm that they are a major part of any event for any particular group of workers. but they certainly shouldn't be the only part.

CailinDana Tue 24-Dec-13 13:11:59

Freya, the problem is, men are rarely if ever given this kind of talk. Aiming it all at women just reinforces the idea that children affect women's careers but not men's.

Bonsoir Tue 24-Dec-13 13:17:05

I have never been able to relate to women's networking events. I sympathise.

freyasnow Tue 24-Dec-13 14:14:23

Cailin, but the solution to that is for men's events and gender neutral events to also include discussion of caring responsibilities, not for events aimed at women to be as bad as the other events by also not mentioning them and so not being inclusive.

I am not at a phase in my life where I have primary caring responsibilities or pregnancy or maternity as a major issue, but I accept that part of such events must discuss them in order to be inclusive of people with protected characteristics under the law (those who get pregnant and so require maternity leave to recover).

I really don't see a difference between not talking about those issues and the wider factors that follow on from them - like arranging childcare to return to work, and objecting to people discussing the wider issues of people with disabilities or people who are gay. The fact that I personally don't have those protected characteristics doesn't make them irrelevant to me. Part of my career development is having a good understanding of my colleagues who do have those characteristics.

The implication that other people's issues are of no importance to you because you (not meaning you the poster in particular) are not going through them so don't need to understand them surely makes you an employee who is a. unsuitable for any kind of management position where you have authority over others, b. likely to have only the most superficial understanding of equality law so are one of the people likely to inadvertently cause a tribunal or bring your employer into disrepute and c. not really getting the collective nature of feminism if that is important to you.

If I get any kind of training opportunity or networking that further familiarises me with issues like race, disability, maternity or any other kind of legally protected characteristic I would see that as a huge benefit to my career. If I attended a networking event where every woman speaking was a lesbian (for example) and talked about how the issues of being a lesbian in the workplace, I'd be grateful for that opportunity and see it as of benefit to my skills of relating to others. And indeed I have worked for an organisation where all the managers were gay, and I didn't sit around complaining that there simply wasn't enough discussion of how to achieve as a straight woman.

I can see the OP has something constructive to say about the need to cover some topics that are not currently bring addressed that would benefit everyone and she could raise that. But her main complaint is essentially that she is somehow not being catered for on the grounds that she is an environment where she doesn't have a characteristic that requires legal protection due to the high level of discrimination that group faces and most other women who attend these networking events either have done or do.

It's obnoxious and patronising to women who do have children too. I'm trying to start a business, people call me a "mumprenuer" and invite me to other "mums in business" events. These are financial ghettos where women with children go to sell to each other basically and if you actually charge enough to pay yourself you're you're given dirty looks. Business is meant to be a hobby for women, children your only focus.

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