Women’s groups – why we need them


I’ve had a couple conversations in recent days regarding the existence of women’s groups. They are everywhere these days – I even belong to several of them. I am on the steering committee for WINGs, Women Investing in the Next Generation, a circle of women giving to the United Way at recognized levels. I am on the board of directors of the Zonta Club of Cincinnati, a branch of Zonta International, a global women’s philanthropy organization. I am a member of the women’s affinity group here at my work. Clearly, I have bought into the idea.

Let me first discuss two objections to these groups. I’ve been presented with many of them, and I want to give them some space and some thought. All of these were presented to me by rational, kind-hearted individuals, so I believe they deserve some exploration.

First, the claim is that these groups are exclusive, and not inclusive. If what we really want is an inclusive society or workplace, why would we support an exclusive organization? On the absolute top surface of it, I understand why the people putting forth this objection have this issue. We are working for an inclusive society/workplace, and these are exclusive organizations. There are important reasons why we have to do this, and we’ll get to these reasons later.

Second, I’ve heard more than once, as I head out to one of my meetings, “You headed to one of your man-hater clubs?” Most of the time this is said in jest, but as we all know, there is always a kernel of truth in every joke. For some reason, there is an expectation that if we have an all-women’s group the focus must on our hatred of men. How surprised would they be to hear that the subject never, ever comes up.

So to answer these objections, why do we need these groups?

One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is a story that I am sure has been replayed in just about every home with children in America. It happened in my childhood home – and I was the culprit. Frustrated with my Mom for making me get dressed and go out on a picnic that did not cater to my 9-year-old desire to stay inside and read (yes, I was one of those kinds of kids), just to celebrate Father’s Day, I screamed, “Why do we have to celebrate Father’s Day? We don’t ever celebrate Kid’s day!” My Mom looked at me and said, quite sternly, “Every single day is Kids day! We have to pick one special day just to remember how much we love our Dads.”

In the simplest terms, this is exactly why we need women’s groups. In our society today, and in many of our workplaces, every committee is a men’s committee, every group is a men’s group. Just as “kids days” don’t exclude adults, so too do most “men’s” groups not specifically exclude women. However, because the default is men, we must do something special, something separate to recognize women.

It goes beyond recognition, however. Women need a place to feel safe, to explore the unique experience of being female in the corporate world. There are many academic studies out there that show that there is a dearth of women in leadership roles. This is not because women do not wish to hold leadership positions, but rather it is due to a complex web of organizational factors that hold women back.

Let me give a rather simple example. A young woman is at a company function. A man, senior to her in the company, says “You look fantastic!” as he stares directly into her cleavage. Now, she has a choice. Does she report this or not? I discussed this precise predicament in a previous post. But now lets say that she is part of a women’s employee resource group. She now has access to resources. She has an outlet to explore her options, and get feedback on possible actions. She understands that she isn’t alone, that it wasn’t her fault, and that she has other women backing her up, and helping her through.

I truly believe that most men and women understand the need for women’s groups, but I also know there are some men out there, and possibly women, who need some additional help understanding why these organizations continue to exist and thrive. I, for one, am grateful for the opportunities these organizations have given me to invest in my community, my workplace, and myself. I will continue to participate and support these organizations and the incredible women that are involved in them.

Do you have any experiences you would share about being involved in a women’s group? How have they helped you?

As always, keep it positive and smile! Happy Monday!

Job as a proxy for purpose – a hazardous path



This is an internal debate I have been struggling with in recent times: What is my purpose? Why do I look to my “job” for my purpose in life? Why do I ask so much of my job? Why do I only look there to find purpose?

I think the best way to explore this is to share my personal experience on this topic.

On the one hand, I spend the majority of my waking hours at my job. I work hard at my job, and always want to do well at my job. This means I expend most of my energy at my job. I feel good about my day when I accomplish big things at work, and feel terrible when I have failed at work. I spend countless hours, when not at work, thinking and dreaming of ways to improve things at work.

Of most import is that when someone asks me what I do, my answer always is, “My job.” My identity is unfailingly connected to my job. I don’t think I am alone in this. In fact, I am quite certain this is true for so many of us.

For the most part, I am okay with this. I am proud of the work I do, I love the company I work for, and my coworkers are exceptional. I believe that there are times I have made a difference for my employees and for my company. I take pride in that. I genuinely believe that what my company does makes a positive difference in my community and my world.

Now, though, consider the other hand. I am a “creative.” I am much, much more than my job. What excites me the most is inspiring others to see new and different possibilities for our future. I want to create change in our world. I want to sing and laugh and dance and help others to envision and realize brighter destinies for us all.

Can I do this at work? Sometimes. Except maybe the dancing. But herein lies the danger…

If I look to my workplace to constantly provide me the opportunities to be the inspiring, creative person I dream of being, I am absolutely going to be disappointed. And frustrated. And angry. I will likely become disengaged, distracted and if it goes on long enough, toxic to my workplace. The business I work for has a purpose, and that purpose is not to fulfill my individual dreams and goals. It might support me in my efforts to improve and grow, but working for a large company, the alignment will not always be 100%.

So rather than be disappointed and disheartened that I cannot realize my full purpose at work, I must look elsewhere. I must supplement my need for purpose with activities outside the workplace. And this is what I recommend for everyone who is struggling to find purpose at work. Look elsewhere. Be your best self at work. Strive to achieve all you can at work. But don’t put the burden on work to fulfill your true purpose in life.

Here are some suggestions on where I look:

  1. Community involvement – so many programs in our communities need help. Volunteer, take on a leadership role, or start your own organization!
  2. School – there is so much to learn! Get a new degree, study a new subject, take an online course, or even consider teaching a class
  3. Art classes – stretch yourself by trying something new! You never know what you might discover about yourself in a painting, pottery, glass, or dance class
  4. Church – quite a bit of purpose to be found here. The opportunities are endless.
  5. Side-hustle – start your own business!

What other ideas do you have for finding your purpose in life? Please share!

As always, keep it positive and smile! Hope you had a happy Monday!