First, I have to say that forming a Women’s Network within a company is a good idea. It gives women a place where they can be themselves, mirror female role models and learn how to excel in a male-dominated environment from other women.
Why should men be allowed to participate in a Women’s Network?
But to exclude men from this network is a bad idea. Why? Is a question I get a lot these days. The power lays within a male-dominated culture, for the most part, with men. If you want things to change, you need male allies. If you do not allow men to participate in gender inclusion you simply state that gender diversity is a woman’s issue. Recent research from BCG showed that when men are involved in gender inclusion programs 96% of those organizations see progress versus 30% of organizations where men are not engaged.
So, in short, when you do not allow men to participate progress is 30% and when you do progress is 96% which is THREE times more.
But how and when do you let them participate without damaging the feeling of sisterhood and safety within a Women’s Network?
Let me give you some tips. Because just inviting men to attend these meetings is not going to cut it.
First, make sure you only invite men to participate at certain events, not all of them. That ensures the possibility for women to be amongst themselves in a safe environment.
Second, research has shown that men who are given a dignified and important role to play, change is something they can play an active part in. Make sure he feels accepted and not frowned upon when he acts as a manbassador.
Third, if you invite men, make sure they are the right kind. Try to exclude the Fake Male Feminist. The guy who only advocates feminism when his boss is watching. Do a little research before you invite a man. You want to make sure when you give a man an important role to play, it is the right kind of guy.
What roles could you give these men?
I’ll give you two great examples. Set up a sponsoring program for male sponsors and female sponsees at an event. And organise an event where male managers who want more women in their teams tell the audience what they are looking for and invite women to network with them right there and then to pitch for that position.
Make sure to leave room for them to listen and network. Because one of the certified ways to get more gender balance is to have men (preferably high in hierarchy) in the networks of ambitious women. But that’s a good topic for another blog.
Have fun at your next Women’s Network event!