The Net-Working Effect
Business Today|December 13, 2020
How women-only platforms can bridge the gender gap at the workplace
Sonal Khetarpal
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg asks in her international bestselling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. This powerful question struck a chord with 21-year-old Sanya Khurana. She was just out of college and, in her innocent enthusiasm, wrote to Lean In Foundation about how she felt strongly about bringing more women in the workforce.

“I didn’t have the confidence but still wrote. I wasn’t sure how, but I wanted to contribute,” she says. That was in 2014. She not only got a reply from Lean In, the team also guided her through the entire process of joining the foundation. In 2016, she became the founder of Lean In India, and started supporting other women to dream big and fulfill their ambition. Today, Lean In India has 5,578 members in 100 circles, divided into groups based on different interests, professions, etc.

There has been a mushrooming of women-only platforms of late. While each has a different profile, the overarching ambition is the same: to help the likes of Khurana in the workplace. Some broad-based platforms such as SHEROES and Lean In have several smaller communities based on different interests, locations and professions. Then there are others that serve niche segments. Leap.Club focuses on rising women leaders and helps them make the next big leap in their career, WiT India aims to have more women in leadership roles in STEM while Women on Wealth encourages women to take charge of financial planning. There is also the Women in Investing Network.

There are two reasons for the rise of ‘women-only’ networks. One is that social connections are important for professional growth. These networks offer information about job openings, salary trends, upcoming job profiles and advice on navigating workplace challenges. Another is based on scientific findings that women network differently than men. For instance, meeting buddies in the evening for beer doesn’t work for women. Research shows that since brains of men and women are wired differently, men are fine with having larger connections and are forthright in helping friends reach professional goals. Women prefer fewer but long-lasting relationships and, hence, do well in close-knit groups.

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