Originally published on ForbesWoman
I’m constantly asked the question, “why do women need to exclude men from their networks?”
My answer is simple. We need is a place where we can nurture relationships in a way that feels comfortable, a venue where we make the rules, and a private space that empowers us.
I dislike buzz words like “empowered” but when the shoe fits . . .
In this case, it’s psychological. When we’re not being judged by our actions, our speech, our tone of voice or our discussion of families and babies in business setting, we are able to put those perceived (and in many cases, actual) condemnations aside and get down to business.
It’s that simple.
We are judged all the time and we’d like to occasionally be in a place where we are judged less. Or at least judged on criteria that pertains to our jobs rather than to our gender.
The same is true for race or ethnic based organizations.
Unless he’s attended an all-woman’s conference, most white men have never walked into a room and questioned whether he should be there. White men have a sense of entitlement. They’re given the benefit of the doubt and the fact that they are leadership material is unquestioned.
The same cannot be said for female, Black, Hispanic, or Asians.
Ask any of them.
A Room of Our Own
As is true in the case of a woman-only network, having a place where a minority knows with certainty they are allowed to congregate removes the uncertainty that exists when they walk into a room.
I used to be a member of an organization that I shall not name, whose membership was mostly made up of white males (think quintessential old-boy network). Whenever I walked into a meeting I immediately felt the unasked question in the stares of the other members. “What is she doing here?”
Though the direct question would never be voiced, I would be asked “why did you decide to join this organization” or “how long have you been in the industry” or “what credentials do you hold?”
All code for “why are you here?”
Now those are all perfectly logical questions to ask a person, but it’s all in how and when those questions are asked.
And yes, I acknowledge that I could have just been overly sensitive to the fact that I was always the youngest person in the room by far, I was usually the only African American and I was one of very few women.
As a minority, there’s always that lurking question whether you should be
Most white men just don’t know what that feels like.
So, the next time you wonder to yourself, or aloud, why “fill-in-the-blank”
needs a network or organization of their own, ask yourself why you bother
questioning its existence and whether you’ve asked any of its members why they