The case against femaleonly business groups in 2017

first_img Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this article Regional Manager, Plato Dublin Sunday 16 Apr 2017, 10:00 AM Apr 16th 2017, 10:00 AM Take me to Fora The case against female-only business groups in 2017 Anything that reinforces a stereotype that women need special treatment should be cut out. 152 Views Short URLcenter_img Marion Walshe 33 Comments OVER THE PAST decade Ireland has seen an explosion of female-only networks, development programmes and funding awards.Any initiative that motivates and encourages business owners to grow their enterprise is of course welcomed. However, in 2017 the question must be asked if gender segregation in business is either necessary or productive?The appeal of female-only networks is undoubtedly based on a feeling of camaraderie and support in a relaxed environment, which is perceived as being less intimidating or even demanding than a mixed-gender group.For many there is also an expectation that a female-only group will be more understanding of the challenges of juggling family and work commitments.It is fair to say that many current female-led businesses may not exist if that initial women-only platform had not been available.I know some female-only networks that have been responsible for thousands of women taking the first step into the business world.Special treatment is counter-productiveThe concern is that the existence of female-only networks automatically implies that women don’t naturally fit in the general business environment.Segregating women into female-only channels suggests that women need special treatment when it comes to business and that being female is a negative or indeed a burden in the business world.There is no doubt that women have had a tough road to travel in terms of participating in the business arena. In Ireland, prior to 1973 a woman couldn’t keep her job in the public service or a bank after marriage.Some 44 years later, anything that reinforces the stereotype that women need special treatment in the business world is surely counter-productive and unhelpful.A necessary platform?It is often suggested to me that female-only networks serve a purpose at startup stage.However, I would argue that a mixed-gender environment would provide a more realistic appraisal of whether the business idea or the business owner has what it takes to succeed in the real world.Roughly nine out of ten new business fail within the first five years, largely as a result of a lack of strategic planning.Rather than joining a network that will be kind and nurturing, surely it would be wiser to test your concept in a realistic business setting with feedback from a variety of experienced business minds.In the mid- to long-term, a female-only network could only benefit a business in an industry only focused on women.But even then it would be wrong to suggest that a mixed group would not provide a more rounded view in terms of good business practices.Certainly at the SME stage when a business owner wants to expand and achieve strategic goals a mixed-gender forum or development group will more accurately reflect the real business environment.Quality is keyOne thing is clear, continuous learning and investment in oneself through training and development will always benefit your business.Ultimately when deciding to invest your valuable time and resources into any networking group or development programme, the most important criteria should be the quality of the programme itself.Peer-to-peer support is hugely beneficial and sharing experiences with other business owners who are at similar stages of growth.Accessing expertise from senior business leaders will also enable you to think strategically and be structured in the growth phase.It may be that your network or development group is by chance single gender, but clearly it is outdated and counterproductive to make gender the key factor when judging the best forums for your business.At a fundamental level, we have to question the legitimacy of female-only networks when we consider what the reaction would be to a male-only network.Marion Walshe is regional manager with Plato Dublin. The spring cycle of its business development programme begins 26 April and is open to SME applicants. Originally posted on Sign up to our newsletter to receive a regular digest of Fora’s top articles delivered to your inbox. By Marion Walshe Share Tweet Email5 last_img read more

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