This month, Lynne Franks has launched a new business club for women in Covent Garden called B.Hive. She says, 'It has been my dream to create a new kind of business club where like-minded women can come together in a feminine space to network and share their stories. It's clear that more women than ever are starting their own businesses, freelancing or taking leadership roles in large companies. But until now there just hasn't been anywhere to go where we can have meetings, catch up with our e-mails and hold events in a space that reflects 'the feminine way of doing business.' In an interview she explained that this feminine way of doing business is all about community, connection and collaboration.
Intriguing. Earlier this year, we ran a networking day for women near Sheffield, where we explored skills of networking and gave people an opportunity to do it. It grew out of our experience since we set up Sophia, as we've found that many of the women we met weren't very well connected, and needed some help to network in a predominantly male world. It was a fantastic day and we're planning to repeat it next year in London and the Midlands. I'm part of a small group of women who meet every couple of months to share experiences of leadership and it's always a very life-enhancing time. But I'm not sure that I'd want to encourage women to only network with each other or hide away in a female only ghetto. I think on the whole women and men need to be working together, not separately.
And do women really have such a distinctive way of working? Are women not competitive? Do men not do collaboration? Doesn't it depend a lot on the people involved and the context they're in? I've been looking into this recently for my dissertation, and actually it's quite a complex issue. For example, I read a story this week about a woman who returned to work after maternity leave and her work pattern changed to ‘become more instrumental and effective, with little patience for unnecessary time-consuming interactions.’ Her work style became what some would call more ‘masculine’ because of the very feminine experience of having a small child to care for. One summary of the research available on this issue says, ‘The person wanting a clear and simple answer to the question ‘do women manage in a different way than men?’ is bound to be disappointed not only with the research available, but also with the complexity of the issue.’ What do you think? I'd love to hear about your experiences.