The Three Best Ways to Get the Most Out of a Women's Network

8 March 2018


It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) – a day set aside to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Incidentally, because some readers will wonder, International Men’s Day is 19 November ;-)

Today also marks the launch of Intralinks’ Women in Finance (WiF) Programme that will bring together women from across the financial landscape to support, challenge and encourage one another. Events, meet-ups and blog posts may be the delivery mechanism, but it’s the relationships they foster that are the real driving force.

When Diversity Inc. analysed the top 50 most gender-diverse businesses in the US they noticed three common features: 1. Flexible working; 2. Mentoring and sponsorship for women; and 3. A strong women’s network. The latter two of these I believe will be a by-product of the Intralinks WiF initiative.

Being part of a women’s network over the past four years, has been nothing short of life-transforming for me. I put off going for a while – the idea of a single-gender group made me feel slightly queasy. Yet it has positively impacted all areas of my life – my career, family life and personal wellbeing, as well as being a source of great fun and friendship. Like the Intralinks WiF, we come from a variety of companies and we’ve found great strength in the range of differing backgrounds, knowledge and experience we each bring. We also provide each other with connections beyond our existing networks.

The Board You Can't Afford

‘The Board You Can’t Afford’ which formed as an offshoot from a wider Women in Business programme. That’s me in the centre leaning against the fireplace.

So how do you ensure that you make the most of your valuable time when you meet up?

1. Be open and vulnerable

A friend told me about a women’s network she was part of. Somehow the tone was set so that people felt they had to bring their ‘best selves’ to the meet-ups. It became an opportunity to boast about achievements and it added no value to anyone.

What’s made our group exceptional is our level of vulnerability with one another. Vulnerability seems to be a bit of a buzzword in leadership talk of late (thanks in no small part to Bréne Brown), but it’s crucial if we are to have authentic, supportive and meaningful relationships. Before each meet-up, I ensure I know what problem I want to bring to the group for them to help me solve. The solutions are always far superior to those I could have come up with on my own.

2. Be ready to do business

Whist sharing a few glasses of wine and listening to an inspirational speaker is all very nice, be ready to do business at your meet-ups too. Whether that’s the serious business of developing your own career (it isn’t called a career ‘ladder’ for fun), enhancing an existing business relationship, promoting your company’s services or setting up a meeting, don’t miss the opportunities these events will provide.

3. Communicate between meet-ups

As much as I can’t stand WhatsApp, it has changed the way our women’s network communicates, in a good way. “Does anyone have a contact at ‘X’ company,” “Does anyone know ‘X’ and can you make an introduction,”,“I’ve got a big pitch coming up and I’m feeling a bit wobbly – HELP.” The power of our group was magnified when we regularly started communicating in between our meet-ups.

So, let’s start as we mean to go on. Please head on over to the Intralinks Women in Finance webpage to sign up to receive regular pearls of womeny-wisdom from the blog.

Hayley Barnard

Hayley Barnard

Hayley Barnard is the Managing Director of MIX Diversity Developers and Commercial Director of Shoal Projects Ltd. She is a specialist in Diversity and Inclusion and Unconscious Bias in the workplace.