My response to a constantly returning argument that questions the relevance of female-only networking groups
Orsi Parkanyi, 2 October 2014
I’d like to approach this topic from a scientific and logical point of view and not from an emotional one to make it relevant to all gender/ethnicity/cultural/sexuality based arguments.
First of all, let’s get clear on the terminology, because I believe often there is an incorrect use of terminology that leads to confusion and misinformation when discussing this important topic. (source: wiki)
Minority group: In the social sciences, the term “minority” is used to refer to categories of persons who hold few positions of social power. Members of minority groups are prone to different treatment in the countries and societies in which they live. This includes treatment of an individual or group based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or social category, “in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated”.
Prejudice: Gordon Allport defined prejudice as a “feeling, favorable or unfavorable, toward a person or thing, prior to, or not based on, actual experience”
Discrimination: Discrimination is action that denies social participation or human rights to categories of people based on prejudice.
Affirmative action or positive discrimination is the policy of favoring members of a disadvantaged group who are perceived to suffer from discrimination within a culture. Affirmative action is intended to promote the opportunities of defined minority groups within a society to give them equal access to that of the privileged majority population.
It is my opinion, that given the fact that women are the minority in business; ‘men-only’ business groups are purely discriminating – by definition. On the other hand, ‘women-only’ business groups fall into the category of positive discrimination forming as an attempt to eliminate the discrimination that was occurring in the first place.
Having said that, if there was a good reason, other than purely excluding women from an event, a reason why these men want to and need to exclude women, for instance, something like this: “research shows there is a much higher suicide rate in the businessmen community than in the businesswomen community and we want to get together to talk about the specific issues men face and the reasons behind it in a safe environment” I believe I could wholeheartedly support that cause – for the above details reasons.
Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that all around the world, women secure less investment for their startups; grow smaller companies, make less money at the work place and are underrepresented in leadership roles. We also know that this is often the same with other minority groups. We are now starting to openly talk about this and understand the reasons behind all this; which is definitely the first step towards change and a better and fairer world.
I believe that creating women-only networking groups is a genuine attempt to fix the gender gap in business, a change we would all benefit from, men and women alike. I’m not saying we need to exclude the men completely, I never have. For example with my organization, Women as Entrepreneurs, we organize several events where we also invite men – and we clearly communicate this on our event page when it happens. We are also very fortunate to have many amazing men supporting us by sharing their knowledge and connections with the community. This is important.
But as long as we can’t say we achieved gender equality, there is an importance and relevance to use positive discrimination – which is a common tool – to accelerate much needed change.
Any thoughts? We’d love to hear what you think!