Ashleigh Auld is the Head of Channel Marketing at Starleaf and is working with the Women in AV as well as Diversity and Equality of Legal Technology and Security.
Networking groups are a great way to meet new people, make new connections and generate new business however as a woman in business, I understand how going to mixed events can sometimes be intimidating, particularly for young women.
When I began my career, I went to a number of events which welcomed a mixed audience however going to these events in my early twenties put me well out of my comfort zone. Networking in the male dominated STEM industry was particularly challenging. Events seemed full of middle aged men wearing grey suits confidently expounding their views, which to a 24 year old can be overwhelming.
Having been through it myself I understand that the idea of walking into a room full of strangers doesn’t sound like the most appealing idea but if you are new to networking and feeling nervous about the prospect, women’s networking groups can be a great way to get started.
It’s a generalisation but women’s networking groups can often be more welcoming than mixed groups and you get the chance to really get to know people, not only professionally but personally too. I’ve actually made some of my best friends through networking!
Female networking groups create an atmosphere of inclusivity and empowerment and as women we are likely to be experiencing similar issues in life and in business. It’s incredibly reassuring to know that you’re not alone and also inspiring to hear how other women cope with these challenges. I found it particularly useful meeting women older than me who had been through similar experiences. Listening to their stories was a great way for me to learn how to cope with certain situations.
There’s a great ethos of support in women’s networking groups. I found out that it’s not about boasting and showing off as some mixed events can be, but about being honest and asking for help and advice. It’s only by being open that you can really get the support you need and finding a group you feel comfortable in gives you the confidence to address the issues that are bothering you.
The other significant benefit is the fact that women tend to be supportive and want the best for you which of course helps you grow in confidence. It’s like having your own cheerleaders!
All networking can be slightly intimidating but just remember, everyone was in your position once and we’re all there for the same reason – to make connections, meet potential clients and suppliers and to share solutions to problems we’re all experiencing.
There were huge benefits of going to women’s networking groups but the thing I found most helpful was the way that it impacted on my confidence. I now go to a number of networking events, both women’s events and mixed, and walking into a room full of strangers now holds no fear for me!