Tricky subject this, and it’s gone through my mind several times that I shouldn’t air my opinions so openly. Nevertheless, I’m keen to better understand the topic and would welcome an alternative standpoint.
So here’s the question:
Do events aimed at “Women in…” help to address the gender divide which continues to exist in the construction industry?
and here is my answer:
“Women In…” events are counter-productive in addressing sexism as they are serving to enhance the gender gap by discriminating against men.
In order to back that up, I should say that have one experience of a “Women In…” event and I didn’t find it useful. I was made to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed at the level of negativity towards men.
I can’t help but think that if there was an event aimed solely at “Men in…” there would be an outcry.
Of course I am aware of the gender issue in the construction industry so I ensure I network as actively as my male colleagues. I attend as many events as possible (providing the subject matter is something i’m interested in) and in doing so, I feel I am representing women in a positive way and am making myself seen and heard.
I also Chair the West Midlands Forum for Tomorrow which is linked with the Forum for the Built Environment – a networking forum for “emerging” professionals in the construction industry and beyond.
I would love to hear some examples of positive experiences from women in the industry (and beyond) who have attended a “Women In…” event or are actively involved in a “Women In…” network.
Update: 28th November 2010
Thanks to all the people who left comments against this post. The mixture of responses formed a broad level of opinion which was really useful.
On the back of the comments, I felt I should give ‘Women only’ events another chance – one bad experience shouldn’t tar other events with the same brush. So I went along to a Women Working In Construction event held at Urban Coffee Co. In actual fact I’d been dreading it – the thought of a room full of just women was far more intimidating to me than a mixed group and I felt more nervous than usual about walking into a room full of strangers. In actual fact I received a warm and friendly welcome (perhaps they’d read my blog!) and I found chatting to my fellow networking ladies came easily.
I came away with a couple of new contacts and I’d learned a little more about the speakers’ journeys into the construction industry, which is always interesting, however, the overriding feeling was that this had been no different to the usual ‘mixed’ events. On that basis I shared my confusion via a tweet which concluded: “why bother segregating?”.
On reflection, something else had become apparent. There were one or two ladies who admitted on the night that they have an issue with confidence and for them, developing networking skills in an environment that they are comfortable in, before ‘graduating’ to mixed events is a really important part of their personal development skills. It probably sounds arrogant, but I don’t have too much of an issue with confidence, so this isn’t a problem that I have to tackle.
To conclude, “Women In” events are useful for some women. Just not that useful for me.