The comments of Katie Hopkins, Business Advisor, and ex contender on The Apprentice, have been appearing all over Twitter this week. Particularly her quote that, “Female-specific business support ‘stifles economic growth’”. Read more here. It’s no surprise to see her comments generating such reaction as she prides herself on her no-nonsense approach to business and ‘telling it like it is’. But what do we as women make of this latest statement? I am writing this for a website specifically for Women Entrepreneurs and am seeing Women only networking events springing up all over the place and attracting a bigger and bigger audience. Is she saying that we are stifling our opportunities to grow and develop ourselves and our businesses by taking part in these?
My personal motto in business is to apply balance to everything I do. I think total immersion in one way of operating offers limits that can be hard to overcome. I personally value the rapport and support I get from other females in business and they offer a type of understanding and collaborative working that is of great merit. I have attended a couple of women in business networking events recently and the empathy and sharing, and genuine interest in what I do and who I am as a person is a great confidence-builder. However I can see that limiting my networks to these events only would be detrimental overall.
Networking with groups of men and women has a different feel about it. There is a more competitive element, more self-promotion and a more confident approach to relationship-building. It is more dynamic, more structured and yes, harder work! It is maybe for this reason that Katie recognises that sticking to this type of network only, excludes you from the skills you need to hold your own in a more challenging environment.
I try to apply everything back to things in my own life to get a perspective on it. As a parent I understand the importance of after school clubs, sport, outdoor play, music and my son gets involved in some of these things as they offer him the opportunity to make friends, get exercise and have fun. However, filling all his time with activity and engagement is not what I believe is right. He has down-time, drawing, watching TV, yes, even time with a games console because this balance gives him the time out to find the energy to enjoy the activities more.
Another example comes from my work. I work with businesses to help them to use Social Media effectively in order to grow their business. I often find myself called in to new clients when they have been persevering away at populating sites left, right and centre, with no real idea why or what they should be achieving. They are taking valuable time out of their business day to do this because they think they should, and panic if they’re not. I always take it right back to the start and look at finding the right balance. Running a business comes with responsibilities for people, clients, accounts, marketing, sales and management and that’s on top of looking after a home, a family, and don’t get me started on finding time to look after ourselves!
Most importantly, I advise clients, to be realistic, look at what they want to achieve, what time they have available and then find a blend of activity that fits. It’s far better to do something manageable really well, than to put a whole heap of energy into something that’s going nowhere.
And so that takes me back to Katie’s comment, “Female-specific business support ‘stifles economic growth’”. If you as a business owner immerse yourself only in a women-only environment then yes, you will become comfortable in this zone and will limit your opportunities and horizons. However, that does not mean there is not a valuable role for them to play. I firmly believe that Female-specific business networks are here to stay and will grow. They offer companionship, focused training, referrals, business partnerships and great support. The balance lies with us. Use them, take part in them, enjoy them and value them, but apply balance too and make them just one part of the arsenal of things you do to make you a successful and confident women in business.
About the Author: Paula White. I’m a self-employed Social Media Mentor & Trainer. I help businesses to make sense of the array of Social Media options, and find the right blend of networks and activity to suit their personality, business goals and time. It gives me great pleasure to share new skills and watch people put them into action to make their businesses grow and flourish. When I’m not working, I spend as much time as I can enjoying the great outdoors. There’s nothing I like better than the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. For more info visit me at: www.whitesocialmedia.co.uk or join me on Twitter: @paulawhite_uk