I’ve never been a fan of gender specific networking and education. It has always felt like voluntary segregation to me. If I’m fighting to be seen as an equal and leaning in than why would I opt to remove myself from the male dominated table? I typically avoid women’s networking groups and women’s educational programs. Let’s face it, the only place I really want to only be with women is in my gynecologist’s office and come to think of it my doctor is man. Treat me like an equal, not like a girl.
This all changed last month when I attended Loyola University’s Strategic Leadership Program as part of the Women’s Leadership Department. This is an AMAZING group of women! This is an AMAZING program! The synergy (I hate that word but it really fits here) in that room was AMAZING (forgive the over use but it’s true!) and made me rethink what I think of female focused programs. The women in this program varied in age, race, profession, experience, ethnic origin, and more but yet we shared a desire to learn in this program. There was absolutely no man bashing and only even a few references to men at all. We simply shared a common experience of being strong professional women in mostly male dominated professions and that created a bond. We relate to one another, encourage one another, share ideas, give feedback, and build one another up. It has made me open to future programs like this one.
Ironically, I’m very open to women’s groups in my personal life. I’m all about opportunities to empower women, build confidence, and encourage women to love themselves and their bodies. Loyola has shown me that this same empowerment can come from business focused events for women too. As with everything else, this too is about balance & understanding that leaning in doesn’t just apply when I’m at a table full of men.