Why Sometimes It Just Has To Be ‘Women Only’.

Women first women are happy! Lusi. Stk Xc

Regular readers will know I am not anti men. Far from it.

I am, however, pro changing the world so women get equal treatment, and I’m very pro raising awareness of just how unequal that treatment is, even in many enlightened organisations and businesses.

Our workplaces and businesses have been designed by men, for men. Working practices are designed to meet male requirements. One classic example – working practices take little or no account of the need for the human race to procreate. If we had truly gender neutral practices child care would not be the political issue it is. The needs of a society to have healthy, well cared for children would be evident in gender equal practices, and women would not be penalised in their careers for actually having babies. The Scandinavian countries are way ahead of the UK and US on this.

I don’t believe debates of this nature should be seen as women’s issues only. It’s one of the reasons I have changed my mind on women only pressure groups in the workplace. We need the men to understand the issues, and frankly, as that’s where most of the power still resides, we need them to be supportive of change, to help women make change happen. (More on that here: Are Women Only Groups Good For Your Career?)

I make one exception to this rule: in the case of personal development courses in an organisation committed to gender equality, when we’re talking about consciousness raising courses, taking that first step, I firmly believe they need to be for one gender only.

Most of us haven’t got our head around all of the issues, we’re too busy doing the day job. We need space to explore what that means to us. I’ve had experience of doing that in mixed groups and it’s far less productive than single gender groups. In mixed groups, women tend to say less, and men hold the floor. Men can feel embarrassed and defensive when they hear some of the statistics and research on gender inequality. They need time and space to explore their own reactions and thoughts, at least initially.

It’s precisely because I am not anti men that I think having these initial sessions in single gender groups is important, and respectful. Many women will be unaware of the working practices which are very male oriented because it’s all we’ve ever known. Once you give women space to think more deeply about this they become much more sensitised to the issues. As do the men. I know it seems counter intuitive to launch an equality initiative by separating the sexes within an organisation, but it can actually be counter productive to do otherwise.

*I’m grateful to Lusi of StockExchange for use of this image

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Posted on October 14th, 2014 by

3 Responses to “Why Sometimes It Just Has To Be ‘Women Only’.”

  1. Thanks Jane, this makes the case very clearly. Out of interest have you ever delivered RenewYou to men only?

    • Jane says:

      No, never. When I was writing and trialling RenewYou I did deliver it to mixed groups but soon moved to women only where it works much better. I have delivered seminars (management, change, etc) to groups of men and the style of delivery required from me, and their responses, are very different to women only groups. I think personal development type courses for men should probably be delivered by men. However, I am currently working with an organisation as a coach to their management group, mainly men again. I don’t find any differences in the issues raised one to one; the men are as open and as ‘vulnerable’ as the women, but I’ve always found it very different in groups. As you know, magic often happens in a RenewYou day and I can’t quite explain what that is. You just know it when it happens.

  2. Lynne Parker says:

    Let’s hear it for the girls Jane! I’m fully on board with this (as you know!) and now finding that men are curious about the community of emboldened, creative and assertive women that we are all creating.

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