What's the point in starting a women's network if ...

(20 Posts)
Trulyamnearanear Mon 16-May-16 21:30:47

... You're just going to talk about men the whole time.

I work in STEM and attended a women's network meeting that recently started up. They laid out their aims to challenge pay disparity and unconscious bias etc etc and all that good stuff.
What annoyed me was that this came after a 5 minute speech about how great it was 2 men attended, how their input is so important and that this is open and inclusive to all genders and they want men and trans people to feel safe and welcomed. Forgot to mention a welcome to the women and then made a ridiculous remark about football (ha ha ha we like football too - we're just like men, isn't that great hmm)

Was I naive to hope for a little feminism in a women's network???
My company desperately needs these issues addressing but it feels as if they're being so open minded they're at risk that their brains will fall out.

LittleWorthen Mon 16-May-16 21:31:34

Lol men talk about women, and women talk about men. If not men, then kids 😂😂

tribpot Mon 16-May-16 21:38:47

But surely you must remember the countless times you were made to feel welcome at men's events, praised for your input and reminded the event was inclusive? What do you mean that has never happened ever?

(Well I'm sure it must have happened once at least, I've never seen it though).

If it helps, I was recently at women in tech event. There were literally three men in the room at 80 women. Two of the men came and sat with me on the back row as I knew one of them. The other one said "this is the men's row!" quite happily oblivious to the fact that 1/3 of the row were women and 98% of the people in the room were women. Obviously he didn't mean any offence but it was still bloody annoying.

I'd offer some feedback after the event - none has been sought after my one, which I'm quite surprised about. Explain that you felt as I did (at least I think that's how you felt) - marginalised at an event that was for your own sex. It doesn't "go without saying" that they're pleased to see so many women at these events (which would likely be their argument). We have been pushed to the margins for thousands of years.

Trulyamnearanear Mon 16-May-16 21:55:11

I think I'll take your advice about feedback - no point complaining to myself and expecting things to change.

Another thing that got my goat was, they invited the new head of HR to talk. She'd done a lot to support groups in the past but the bit of advice that stood out was when she told us we might just have to 'toughen up'.

tribpot Mon 16-May-16 22:01:25

Sure, women in STEM do tend to be fragile flowers unused to dealing with an environment that is downright hostile to them at times. I'd ask the HR woman why she felt you (collectively) needed to toughen up.

shinynewusername Mon 16-May-16 22:53:44

If you want to be more depressed, check out the World Health Organisation's anti-FGM campaign on Twitter. The response? "But what about MALE circumcision. That is just as dangerous"hmm

erinaceus Tue 17-May-16 02:01:51

The point in starting a women's network* is to teach women how to do gender in order to better serve the patriarchy.

(You've hit a nerve, can you tell?)

*not all Women's Networks

Felascloak Tue 17-May-16 10:36:01

We've just started one at work, sure enough within a week some man's posted on it about how can we make it relevant to men? Otherwise they will feel resentful and excluded angry
I wish our management would have a word but our HR manager thinks it should be policed by the community ie women get to do it. Which he and others like him will obviously take seriously

shinynewusername Tue 17-May-16 12:46:26

The point in starting a women's network* is to teach women how to do gender in order to better serve the patriarchy

That is absolutely true of the networks in my profession (medicine), but I'm not sure that that means they are without value. I think they have allowed more women to infiltrate the profession than would otherwise have done so. Of course, some of these women go native and just enforce the prevailing culture but others do create change. Attitudes to parental leave, for example, are a world away from where they were 20 years ago, when I trained. It was then considered career suicide to work part-time: you would be very unlikely to make consultant or GP partner. Now it is the norm - though that is not of course to say that women do not remain disadvantaged.

Realistically, I think we are more likely to subvert patriarchy from the inside than overthrow it.

VestalVirgin Tue 17-May-16 13:46:23

What is the point in starting a women's network if you let men attend in the first place? Aren't women networks a strategy to counter men's secret meetings in the men's bathroom, in the strip club, etc. that all exclude women?

Also, in my experience, if you include men in any feminist approach, they are going to cry "But what about the men!" every couple of minutes and you won't get anything done.

Making plans to mentor younger female colleagues? Will probably be interrupted by males pointing out how this or that male collegue is sooo much worthier, etc.

Realistically, I think we are more likely to subvert patriarchy from the inside than overthrow it.

I agree that we must work from the inside, as living in a lesbian separatist commune won't achieve much - but we have to overthrow it in the end.

Otherwise, it is still patriarchy, and as such, not good for women.

if you include men in any feminist approach, they are going to cry "But what about the men!" every couple of minutes and you won't get anything done.

grin

Curviest Tue 17-May-16 19:31:45

You were lucky! My union's women's committee constitution specified that the chair of the cttee HAD to be a member of the national executive. There were never any women in the NE and so the chair of the women's cttee was always male.

EBearhug Tue 17-May-16 23:59:15

the bit of advice that stood out was when she told us we might just have to 'toughen up'.

Yeah, because any woman who's worked in IT for any length of time won't have already developed rhino hide...

EBearhug Wed 18-May-16 00:24:40

Anyway...

I have posted on here on more than one thread in the past about how I think a good women's network can be fabulous.

Ours has given me lots of support with git manager and shown me that other departments don't all work so dysfunctionally. It's enabled me to meet people I would never have got to meet in the course of my normal work, including some very senior ones. It's given me opportunities to work on projects I wouldn't normally do. It's given me opportunity to organise events like "bring your children to work" and various other things. It's given me the confidence to speak out in all-hands meetings, and given me a forum to discuss things like the pay gap, unconscious bias and so on. It's informed me about things the company offers, such as funding for study (my manager should probably have told me, but these days, I am more likely to know about things like that, because of my involvement with the women's network.) It's helped me learn about other areas of the business and the careers paths of senior managers. I've had some mentoring, I'm currently getting some coaching. Because of all these things, it's made me a far better employee. And hopefully, (just waiting on final approval,) it will be responsible for me getting seconded to another department in next month.

But if it's just there as a token, then it's not helpful. However, you can't ignore men all together, because they are quite likely to be the ones who head up divisions of the business (including HR, even if that is otherwise female-dominated), and they may well be the ones who can sign off extra funding to get in external speakers or trainers, or permit things like a women's conference or whatever. You do need some executive sponsors.

Men are also likely to have been the ones who have created the company culture. They will be many of those who are making decisions about hiring and firing and promotions and payrises and bonuses and appraisals. It's all very well telling women they're being held back because of unconscious (or conscious) bias and so on, but if all your managers are men, then they also need to know about that, else things are unlikely to change. The women's network may not be the ones who do that, but they can pressure HR to encourage them to put on awareness training or whatever else.

Of course you do get the ones saying, "Why isn't there anything like this for men?" Well, firstly, men can join our women's association, so they're not excluded. "But I'll be the only one there!" So welcome to almost every day of my career. I'm not stupid enough to expect any of them to change their attitude and try and make things more inclusive when I point this out, though. I also point out that if they feel they are excluded or discriminated against or disadvantaged, then they can put their case together and present it to HR, saying they would like support to set up a support network for the poor, disadvantaged, educated, middle-class, white men who are the ones who are making these complaints. Sadly no one has done this so far, because I think there will be much entertainment caused if such a proposal is ever received. smile

erinaceus Wed 18-May-16 16:15:49

Realistically, I think we are more likely to subvert patriarchy from the inside than overthrow it.

I think a combination of both approaches is needed and this is why diversity among feminists is so valuable and should be encouraged.

I do not think that women's networks are without value. I get frustrated because my employer's women's network is not radical enough for my politics. The meetings tend to give me the rage. Hence, I save my overthrowing for the weekends and subvert during the working week. YMMV.

Trulyamnearanear Wed 18-May-16 20:37:51

grin erinaceus

Iggi999 Wed 18-May-16 21:34:39

I have no experience of women's networks in my employment, but am v surprised that it is a meeting a man would go to, or be allowed to go to. There is a BME workers group and it would not occur to me as a white person to go along to that, unless invited for some reason.
(Worryingly autocorrect changed the "along" above to Ali g!)

stealthsquiggle Wed 18-May-16 21:37:58

OP, I work in STEM and am very active in intra- and inter-company women's networks. They're not all as you describe. If you are interested, PM me and I would be happy to compare notes.

IrenetheQuaint Wed 18-May-16 21:42:38

"I have no experience of women's networks in my employment, but am v surprised that it is a meeting a man would go to, or be allowed to go to. There is a BME workers group and it would not occur to me as a white person to go along to that, unless invited for some reason."

Well yes, and for the same reason I don't go to meetings of the disability network and ask every 2 minutes "but what about able-bodied people? we have problems too you know".

Unfortunately all-women gatherings bring out the worst in some men.

EBearhug Thu 19-May-16 00:33:24

They laid out their aims to challenge pay disparity and unconscious bias etc etc and all that good stuff.

Did they say how they'll actually do it? Do they have a plan to do pay audits on departments and so on? After all, lots of companies say they care about equal pay, but in reality, market forces mean they will pay what people negotiate when they're hired, and they get individual reviews each year, and discrepancies are maintained. Are they training people (particularly hiring managers and people supervisors who conduct reviews) on unconscious bias, how to recognise it, and what actions to take to reduce the effects of it?

What do you want from the network? One of the most useful things from ours is having people from different areas of the business explain what they do and who key people are, but some of that depends on your employer and how they currently operate, and how siloed they are.

What about mentoring?
Hour-long sessions on how to negotiate, speak assertively, work out what your strengths are, how to write your CV or LinkedIn profile?
Volunteering with organisations like Stemnet, Stemettes, ScienceGrrls, loads of others?
Newsletter with links to stories on women in STEM and so on?
Networking with other companies? Women's networks can be quite collaborative between companies as well as within a company.

Also, think about basic stuff - we avoid meetings or meetings at the end of the day (avoiding school run, which is proportionately more likely to involve women). Also we usually record any training sessions or interviews or discussions and make the recordings available for those who couldn't make it (such as they were working from home that day, or were on leave.)

This is its beginning - work out what you want from it, and ask for it. Be prepared to be involved.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now