It’s complicated – the idea that groups established to champion diversity can instead be the opposite.
Women’s groups, in particular, have long been accused of deliberately keeping men out, or only having certain types of women joining, hence making a group designed around inclusivity and diversity only further preaching to the converted and not bringing about any real change.
This was the idea tackled at last week’s Network 25 event, unpacking the concept of ‘Do women’s groups have a diversity problem?’
The panel, which was made up of individuals from within Colt and also members of other sectors, resoundingly said yes, these groups have a diversity problem. But it’s not that simple.
Daniel K. Winterfeldt, Founder and Chair of the InterLaw Diversity Forum and Partner, US Securities, Global Capital Markets, at Reed Smith explained that “there’s no silver bullet” when it comes to diversity, and it’s “a set-up to think that women’s groups are going to solve all these problems.” However they can definitely do more when it comes to allyship.
Inviting men to the party, so to speak, was a hot topic on the night with the views being split around how do we get men to support women’s networks, but still maintaining a safe environment for the women who use these groups as a place to really be themselves.
One of the suggestions for solving this was having specific communications, separate newsletters and events for allies of the networks, but still keeping some events gender or groups specific – so that members still feel they have that space they need.
However, it was agreed that for women’s networks to really get traction within a corporate environment, they need to engage men, or as Colt’s Chief Commercial Officer, Keri Gilder put it: “If we don’t have the change-makers involved, the change won’t happen.”
It does feel easy sometimes to level criticism at women’s groups. It’s probably because they have been the most visible networking group for some time. The panel also discussed why do we still need women’s groups? With the answer centring around organisational culture. Some businesses don’t need women’s groups, but many still have a culture that isn’t fully inclusive and diverse, making the role of such groups still vital in pushing for change.
Or as Veronica Hollingsworth, Enterprise Sales at Adobe eloquently put it; “People who say that we don’t need women’s groups have never had to justify why they are there.”
We’d like to thank all the participants on our panel: Sonya Barlow, Founder of Like Minded Females; Veronica Hollingsworth, Enterprise Sales at Adobe; Mark Beeden, VP of Customer Service at Colt; Delfina Grossi, Regional Account Executive, Global Clients and Agency Solutions, at Google UK; and Daniel K. Winterfeldt Founder and Chair of the InterLaw Diversity Forum and Partner, US Securities, Global Capital Markets, at Reed Smith; as well as Keri Gilder Colt CCO for hosting.
If you’d like to learn more about Network 25 or hear about our events – contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Homewood – Communications Lead for Network 25