We’ve been running women’s leadership and career programmes for a few years now, what we’re always struck by is the power of the group dynamic. Bringing a group of women together with a common purpose in our experience creates an atmosphere that is supportive, collaborative and inspiring. We pride ourselves on creating that atmosphere from the off in our workshops, what we hadn’t initially anticipated was that these groups of women would want to stay in touch and create a growing network of Birdsoup alumni.
We know that networks are important and it’s often said that men are more natural networkers, using their connections to find opportunities and to be their advocates. From our own research a couple of years ago we found that whilst men and women both sought contacts as the primary benefit of networks, women also found them a source of confidence, support and mentorship. We know anecdotally that women often find “formal” networking events overwhelming and very often they can be male-dominated depending on the industry. For women with children, it’s often hard to access events that are outside of working hours. Maintaining the support networks we have outside of work can also be a challenge, finding the time even to see friends drops to the bottom of the list “it would be great to get together soon”
There is a growth of women’s networks both at organisational, industry and career stages. We’re regularly asked to speak or run workshops for these groups and always impressed by the passion for learning and desire to share experiences and build connection. For some women though if they work at smaller organisations, or as a freelancer or run their own business those support networks don’t exist or are harder to access. Women’s networks within organisations can be fantastic and provide a supportive environment for women to thrive, develop and raise issues but for some they are exclusive, hierarchical or lack the safe environment for women to speak up.
We have found both in the training room and in subsequent alumni meet-ups that the women within the group are happy to share their experiences, what has helped and hindered their career, what they’ve learnt. During the training we work hard to create an environment which allows women to support each other, to offer advice, ask the right questions, to inspire and motivate each other.
This environment really enables peer to peer learning, in a safe non-hierarchical environment, participants can take risks, speak up (often a new experience) and try things out. It’s often during these exchanges that participants encounter a lightbulb moment that changes how they view themselves, their careers and what’s important to them in terms of leadership, values and workplace culture.
We hear a lot about how women do not support each, the stereotype of the “Queen Bee” still persists and unfortunately, we still hear examples of women behaving badly in the workplace. Seeing how women support each other in a learning and development situation really counters those stereotypes and in our experience, that’s the case when working within an organisation or with a group from a range of sectors and industries. The difference perhaps is the culture that’s created in the room and the lack of competition where the focus is everyone succeeding and developing.
For women, by women, with women
We’re often told by organisations that they can’t run a programme “just” for women whilst at the same time reflecting “we don’t have enough senior women in our pipeline”. Women, we believe need different help in their careers, and we know that working in a female-only group creates the right environment to progress their careers. Here’s how they feel about the experience:
“Being supported by a group of cheerleaders who genuinely want to see you succeed”
“The power of women supporting each other made it really special”
“Opportunities to meet and build genuine connections with like minded ambitious women are rare”
Finding your tribe is vital, they can support your career moves, help you discover job opportunities, hold you accountable, provide a sounding board and give you an alternative view.
Sound good? Come and try out the Birdsoup experience.