Are Women’s Networks Worth It?

Are women’s networks the corporate equivalent of the PTA? No. Here’s why.

Of all the activities you’d like to volunteer for, why should a women’s network be at the top of your list? Why should it vie for your precious time, jostling for hours with volunteering at your childrens’ school, helping out at church, or serving on a nonprofit board?

Because a little bit of extra effort invested in your company’s women’s network will jack up your career mobility. These days, we’re all doing more with less. Promotions and raises are hard to come by.  You’re best off trying to daisy-chain to a new position by getting there gradually. And a great way to ease into a new job that’s adjacent to your current one is by getting to know the people in that department or function.

If you’re an accountant and you’d like to see if you like marketing, you have to get included on a marketing team. If you’re in marketing and you’d like to take a swing at communications, you have to get on a communications project. That can be hard to do if you don’t know anybody in other departments. Women’s networks can help you bridge into new positions by getting to know people in those departments who can sponsor you onto their teams.

Only about 8.5% of employees in U.S. –based companies belong to employee resource groups, according to a new report out by Mercer, the big consulting firm. 
Multiline (that is, consumer and business-to-business) companies do best at using their employee resource groups as internal focus groups that help them gain cultural insights into their markets. Overall, consumer companies beat out B to B companies in applying the brainpower of group members to business issues.  The Mercer study also found that:

  • 89% of organizations use the groups as a setting for professional development
  • 43% of business to business companies used the groups to identify ‘high potential’ employees – more than twice the rate of consumer-facing companies
  • 70% of all the employers use the groups to recruit employees
  • 71% of business to business companies – but only 56% of consumer-facing companies – use the groups to ‘onboard’ employees
  • 71% of business to business companies use the groups as a communication channel with executives – again, more than double the rate of consumer-facing companies who do so
  • 79% of business to business companies use the groups to liason with external organizations, compared to 56% of consumer facing companies

If your company has a women’s group, you might be missing out on multiple modes of career development by ignoring it. And if your company doesn’t have a women’s group….why not?
Image courtesy of Morguefile contributor clarita.

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