Setting up your Women’s Network
We wanted to celebrate International Women’s Day in a practical, creative way. We asked EW Group MD Rachael Wilson and Chief Exec Jane Farrell to give their top tips on setting up a Women’s Network, and making sure it has prolonged impact.
1. Set the theme for your Women’s Network
Start by asking yourselves, ‘What do we want to achieve through this network?’ Is there a particular theme or area of focus behind the new group? (This could be representation, bullying and harassment, or brand positioning, for example.) If so, this should be reflected in the selection of network members.
If the organisation would like to advance more women to senior levels, it makes sense to ensure women already at that level in the business are actively involved in the network.
2. Give structure to the network from the start
A useful model to consider is a steering group, with members drawn from each part of the business, to provide oversight for the network. Members of this steering group can rotate in after a two-year term, for example.
Give careful consideration to your messaging. On the one hand, there is a process to follow to join the steering group. On the other, for the network as a whole, everyone who is interested is welcome and will play an active role. There will be work to be done by everyone: this may be helping run events, leading talks or presentations, feeding in stats, etc.
3. Target buy-in from your senior leaders
Look to secure senior buy-in for your network. A message of support from a high-profile figure will highlight equality as a company issue.
It’s also important to invite men in the organisation to be active allies, and think of possible roles for them as the network takes shape (as mentors or sponsors, for instance).
4. Position the network correctly
Proper positioning is key if the network is to succeed. The onus should be set firmly on changing the business/culture, not on changing the individual women within it.
From the outset, the network needs to work out what the organisation is going to do to make its policies and processes more inclusive.
5. Select your steering group fairly
In terms of selecting your steering group members, consider asking them to write, on one side of A4, 250 words on their thoughts on the network’s chosen theme(s), and another 250 words on a time when they have done something to address inequality or promote inclusion.
6. Bring in the right mix of skills
For the wider network members, ask your people to fill in a simple questionnaire with details on why they want to join, what they can offer, and the time per month they’d be able to commit to the network as it grows.
7. Get the network noticed
Longer-term, think about how the network will gain status. How will its work be recognised internally and externally? Are there company awards that would be relevant? Will the network’s activities pique the CEO’s curiosity?