Women’s Networks are Undersurveyed, Apparently|
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a Simmons School of Management study that indicated “women’s networks”– organizations that are described as “support groups” within their workplace– are often described as ineffective by the women who work in organizations that provide such support networks.
Strength in numbers
One of the most interesting things about the survey at Simmons is that it only included 166 female professionals, all of whom had support groups for women at their workplace. 29% weren’t even involved in any such support network. Most said it was because they didn’t have time, though others said they didn’t share the group’s goals, didn’t see its value or weren’t eligible to join. And 16% were members of such a group, but rarely got involved.
These are small numbers. It’s not clear whether the sample size was so small because there aren’t many women participating in their employer’s support networks– though from examples like Deutsche Bank’s annual Women in Business conference, Goldman Sachs’ “10,000 Women” initiative, and many other institutional initiatives intended to support and elevate women in business, it seems unreasonable that the Simmons institute would have been incapable of finding a larger more statistically representative sample size of women in business, and that they could have included women who do not participate in support networks.
The importance of goal-setting– and achieving
Patricia Deyton, who is the faculty director of Simmons’s Center for Gender in Organizations, pointed to the survey’s indication that important features of successful women’s networks show up in those who set and publicize concrete goals for retention and career advancement, as well as those who schedule midday meetings instead of meeting after work, to avoid extra hours at the childcare center.
Sounds a little bit like surveying the effectiveness of a New Year’s Resolution or a Weight Watchers commitment. What we’re learning here is that, like individuals, organizations can struggle to achieve their stated goals. An important takeaway, too, is that a support network isn’t a panacea. Networks transmit information and reduce inefficiencies; they organize, but they don’t ensure success in their endeavors any more than the members within the organization ensure success.
What’s our takeaway? In the world of female professional networks, the rule “you are what you eat” applies. You are only ensured as much success from membership in a support network as you’re willing to put in. We unite in order to connect, share goals and insights, and reduce inefficiencies that occur naturally from our lack of connectedness outside the network.