October 05 2018

Networking for women in the workplace

In her role as an ambassador, Angela Griffiths works with the Corporate Engagement Team to develop and enhance relationships with employers and external partners and build up strategic partnerships. Angela’s principal role with the university is networking and she is a member of many business networks but has a particular interest in those representing the interests of women in the workplace.

Snakes and ladders, monopoly and the elephant in the room

Reflections of a serial networker

Attending eight women’s network events and a dinner to celebrate 20 years of female membership of the MCC in the space of just over a week has certainly given me cause for reflection…

Taking the time machine (piloted of course by a female Dr Who) from 1981, when I first emerged as a rookie employment lawyer and when Britain had its first female Prime Minister, to September 2018 has been a journey enhanced by ladders yet fraught with snakes and where monopolies undoubtedly still exist.

In 1981 the perception was that any woman who reached the higher echelons of a career, kicked away the ladder behind her and that the enemy within was the male sex.

A panoply of legislation and decades of climbing ladders later, my impression, as a university ambassador and networker in 2018, is of a world where women not only collaborate to support each other but also wish to work collaboratively with men and to engage their support.

Most of the younger women whom I have met at recent networking events are confident in their male peers and that true equality will emerge both in the workplace and in the home. As an old lag I am a little more cynical – more on metaphorical snakes and the elephant later…

Membership of women’s networks is generally free or by very low subscription/ticket cost and offers the opportunity of meeting dynamic and successful women (and those just starting off) in an eclectic range of careers.

My attendance in the last week alone has included the EY network, Women in Construction, Women in Transport, Minerva and the eponymous Lady Val network.

The format is very similar – networking followed by speakers offering practical advice followed by food and drink and more networking. Lots of ladders and hugely enjoyable!

Practical advice has included how to project your voice (don’t hold your stomach in and don’t wear heels), how to negotiate a pay rise like a man, how to manage your finances and most importantly how to work towards a work /life balance whilst proving and gaining recognition for your worth. The universal truth appears to be that you must first recognise your own worth and not denigrate yourself.

So where are the snakes? Are they in fact cultural and social?

The networks disclose the huge strides, which still need to be made to achieve parity and equality in the workplace and in the home and it is here that I hope that their true worth and indeed power lies.

The statistics relating to the gender pay gap and board and senior parity remain shocking – look them up.  The graphs demonstrating the effects of career breaks/ part time working on a woman’s lifetime earnings are revelatory.

The inequality is across the professions and at its most stark in those requiring STEM and IT skills. Did anyone read the Darwinian opinion of the male physicist at the recent Italian conference?

Even where strides have been made there is much to do, which brings me on to

The elephant…

Is the maxim that women hold themselves back a valid one and can parity really be achieved by evolutionary change?

My invitation to the new generation of women and their networks is to consider the question, which first posed itself to the suffragettes and suffragists whose 100th anniversary we celebrated this year:

Will change happen progressively and expeditiously by evolution, or do we need more revolutionary legislative and workplace policies to ensure that we achieve the goals, which we seek?

I have every confidence that this generation of women working collaboratively through its networks will find the answer.

Angela would be delighted to hear about the women’s networks to which you belong and any opportunities for joining or attending their events. Please feel free to email her on Corporate@mdx.ac.uk

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