Women Wanted – Building a Strong Network for Women in Your Workplace

How can you benefit from being in a women’s networking group? Here’s a few perspectives:

“I had a great experience with GROW (Growth in Relationships and Opportunities for Women networking program). I was paired with a Principal in our mentoring program last year. This gave me a great networking connection within the company and he helped me gain confidence and encouraged me to ask for a promotion/title change. It was very rewarding professionally.

This year I was a mentor to an associate and helped her gain the courage to approach her manager to update her job description to match her current job duties and she also successfully negotiated a promotion.  She is thrilled! The program promotes positive support from within the company and when you have someone with more experience cheering you on and offering you guidance, you want to succeed. It motivates you. As women, we do not advocate for ourselves as often as we should. This program inspires us to advocate for ourselves and support each other in that process.

I am also part of an Inspire group. We meet once a month and it is all women within the company. Each group has about 10 or less members. We discuss topics that concern women…like how to juggle family and work life, etc.”

Today more companies like the one above are starting to understand the importance of developing well rounded women leaders, helping to close the gap between the number of female and male leaders in positions of influence. A key tool in this leadership development is the use of networking and mentoring programs for women employees. In addition to developing effective leaders, these programs serve as strong recruitment and retention tools.

[Photo by Christina Cerda]
One organization that has taken its women’s mentoring group to an impressive level is Barney & Barney, an insurance firm located in Southern California. Barney & Barney launched their women’s initiative in 2010 with the name GROW (Growth in Relationships and Opportunities for Women). The goal of the GROW program is to give women the tools and resources needed to support them in the workplace and to boost the number of women that are in leadership. The firm offers women associates with a mentoring program, partnering them with both male and female leaders in the organization to build long-term relationships with clear goals for professional development.

In addition to support from mentors, women employees can join groups of 8 to 10 members to discuss current challenges and brainstorm solutions. To address issues relevant to working women today, the GROW program offers education symposiums on topics ranging from professional growth to work-life balance issues. But they don’t stop there – a keynote speaker series brings in notable female leaders to share their experiences and what has worked for them. The GROW program not limited to helping women within the organization; the group also holds social events to raise awareness for local women’s non-profit and charity organizations.

The results of the GROW program are impressive. The firm reports that 98% of participants in the mentoring program last year have continued their mentoring relationship after the program ended.

Interested in starting a networking or mentoring program for women in your organization?

Monster.com gives some key pointers for getting it off the ground.  Here are some take-aways you can used to get started:

  • Identify and communicate your group’s goals and how they align with the company’s goals.
  • Gain support of top management with examples of women’s groups at other organizations, outlining what your group will do, how participants can balance it with their existing work, budgetary requirements, and what it will bring to your organization.
  • Be selective in who will head the organization. When possible, recruit senor women managers to be actively involved, bringing the structure and influence your group will need.
  • Continue to review your plan and goals. Share successes with the company and emphasize to management the value it brings to your company.

You have the potential to bring change to your organization – embrace it and take on the challenge!