When I first started working for the Auckland Chamber of Commerce quite a number of years ago, the membership of the Chamber was overwhelmingly male.
It was not uncommon to attend an event, either a seminar or a networking event, and have around 98 per cent male, or as a good friend of mine often says, “pale, stale, male”. It must have been an intimidating scene for any woman who walked into those events to be faced with groups of men in suits who, to be fair, were not that interested in having women attend.
At that time, we started a businesswomen’s networking group with the aim of providing a way for businesswomen to network together, but also to empower them to attend other events, either as a group or in pairs. After a short while that started to happen, and we began to see increasing numbers of women attending.
Soon after, I attended a businesswomen’s event as the only male, and while those who know me may find this strange, it was a frightening experience. It gave me an insight into how many women would have felt back in the early days. Thankfully, we have moved on considerably since then.
One of the most enlightening things I have learnt from organising and attending networking events is that women network differently to men – they do it with a much longer-term strategy in mind. Men network from the head/brain, but women network from the heart. Women will network with, “How can I help you?”, whereas often men will be looking at, “What can you do for me?”.
I recently told a very good female friend that I considered her to be a strong woman. Her reaction was, “I’m not bolshie”. If I had said the same thing to a male, he would have considered it a compliment. What I meant was, she is someone prepared to debate and defend her point of view and ideas, and this in my mind made her a great asset to the organisation she was working for.
Woman in business, be that as an owner or part of a team, bring many things to the table that men often do not, and in my opinion we shouldn’t even need to discuss this anymore. We should just celebrate the fact that we have finally grown up and realised that each individual has strengths and weaknesses, and we all bring something different to the table. As our One Mahurangi logo says, “We are stronger together.”
Murray Chapman, One Mahurangi Manager