May 15, 2013
News & Opinion: The Power of the Circle
While Shauna Mei [founder of AHAlife, a women-centric shopping site] seems remarkable, she is not an outlier. Increasingly, behind aspiring women entrepreneurs stand older female mentors and investors. Many of these elders made it the old way--the hard way, the way with lots of battles--but they're now secure in their positions. Now that there's room for more women at the top, they don't fear being displaced by the younger, newer model. They can breathe. And after forty years of women in the workforce, isn't it easier, not to mention more fun, when 'you or me' becomes 'you and me'?Despite the book advocating gender comradeship, Ryckman makes it clear that gender isn't really the most important thing. "Gender alone won't qualify any woman for membership in the club. For Stiletto Networks to be relevant and desirable, they must be rooted in shared experience and true sympathy--which means they must have some form of exclusivity." Exclusivity is a difficult word to use in relation to minorities, and more precisely, for women. Exclusivity can act similarly to discrimination. It brings to mind "cliques" and "hierarchy" and being the last kid picked for gym class. Ryckman defends the requirement of exclusivity by clarifying that extreme inclusiveness can just cause these individual circles to get watered down and less effective. Ryckman also stresses that these networks should not become "mentoring programs" because they easily become imbalanced with young women outnumbering the experienced. Stiletto networks, she says, work best when peer-to-peer. So is the answer to the oppression of women in business the exclusion of men? No, Ryckman says.
For occasional bonding trips, segregation might make sense. But on a day-to-day basis, men and women need to mix and...prepare to play on coed teams. It's happening, as more boys are raised by mothers who work (yet are still involved and loving), as men strive to create opportunities for their daughters, as husbands slowly increase their share of duties at home, and as boys and girls collaborate in school. Men and women are starting, just now, to meet in the middle.And if it takes women circling together to make their presence in business undeniable, then the added benefit, Ryckman rejoices, is that these women will enjoy the journey, and maybe even the battle, all the more because they are doing it together.
About Sally Haldorson
Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.