There has been an explosion of networking events for women in Ireland. Two that I have attended are the Dublin City Enterprize Board Women in Business Network which has a huge variety of members and Irelands Geek Girl Dinners which focuses on Women in the tech industry. There are dozens more as well as publications such as Women Mean Business, which featured an article on the opening of BelloBar, see below Shane accompanying his women who mean business myself and Ciara Coyne.
I am in the minority in Ireland who have never experienced a single gender environment. I was in a co-educational setting throughout my education in play school, at primary and secondary level. In university the majority of my class were boys but the three other girls and I had no problem holding our own. I have never felt the pressures of gender inequality on a personal level, so the idea of gender specific events sits a little uncomfortably with me.
But the facts are that in Ireland women are still vastly under-represented in politics, certain high level jobs and in the entrepreneurial and start up world. So the support is needed. It is welcomed by all who attend, myself included, and most importantly it is having an impact. The figures are shifting, with more women being recognised every year across the sectors mentioned above.
And to be perfectly honest I’d say only 1% of time at these events is spent talking about the fact that we’re women. The major reason that we are there is to hear from interesting speakers, meet people and discuss all the amazing things that people are doing and businesses thriving in Ireland.
Margeret E ward a founder of Women on Air, whose focus was on the challenges facing women in the business world, spoke at the April event for Enterprise Ireland Women in Business Network. A statement she made was that change occurs in organisations when the heads (be they women or men) state publicly that they want more women in the high positions as it is good for the company. Not because it is the right thing to do, but because it is economically important to do so. Because having diverse management styles builds a strong culture in an organisation.
I think the root of what makes me uncomfortable about women specific events is outlined above. The statistics change when everyone is working towards the same goal of a closer to equal split of genders in business. We need to be talking about these issues not just to ourselves, not in a female vacuum. Women only events by no means bar men from coming but it is hard to get them involved.
How do you get the gender balance right in a women’s event?
How can we get ‘Men in Business’ to the ‘Women in Business Network’, so they can hear these statistics and hear how they can contribute, not for the sake of women but for the betterment of organisations?