Women's Networks in the Workplace

I pull posts from my archives each week. This week, rather than searching for a post on a specific topic, I took another approach. My daughter is 12 years old so I went 12 pages back in my history and selected the post at the top of the page. We're flashing back to women's networks in the workplace.

 iStockphoto

iStockphoto

I am a woman, I seek out books and blogs written by women, I am coached by a woman, and I am one of three founding members of the very cool, soon-to-be-released Women of HR website.

So, why does the idea of a women's network in the workplace make me uneasy?

A Sum of My Experiences

I listened closely last month during the Women's Leadership Conference as panel members discussed  women's networks. One senior woman leader stated she declined to participate in the women's network because, "she was not a victim." This stopped me in my tracks with a flicker of recognition. Wow.

Flashback to 1985 to me as a brand new second lieutenant looking to make a name for myself. I was highly encouraged to join a women's network by my battalion commander. That network was the officer's wives club. Good intentions and gender aside, I had little in common with this group.

Flashback to early 1990s to me reporting into a new unit. My commander held the door for me, offered me his seat, and, clearly uncomfortable, asked if he could make me some coffee. Tucking away this little power of balance nugget, I assured him I was more capable than most of the men in his unit. We took it to the pistol range. Girl out shoots boy. Case closed.

The women's networks of 2010 are very different from the officer wives clubs of 1985, yet they leave me with the same uneasiness. 

Proving a Point

I'd like to say my prowess with a 9mm back in the day was a result of my natural marksman skills, but it was not. It was the result of one non-commissioned officer, my Lady Wesson, weekends at the Ramstein Rod and Gun club, and a desire to prove a point. That was not the first time I felt I had to prove a point, nor was it the last.

I was treated differently because of my gender and that was the last thing I wanted. Is that what this uneasiness is all about? Or is it because women's networks do not belong in the workplace?