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”Women’s career groups: bad or good?”

Will women’s advocacy groups help you get ahead?

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by Kathy Caprino

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Q. I’m in a debate right now with a female colleague about the women’s network at our company. I’m all in favor of the network and the diversity initiatives our employer engages in. But my friend says associating with them could actually hinder our advancement. She thinks focusing on the differences between men and women may be a bad thing. What do you think?

A. I have strong personal views about women’s advocacy groups and diversity initiatives, as I run and/or participate in many of them every year. In my experience, women’s networks, advocacy groups and well-constructed, research-based diversity programs are incredibly powerful forces in the success of professional women. To those who think that women aren’t different from men, or that women’s networks keep women down, I’d share the following:

Women's advocacy is beneficial for business. The mere fact that women are 50% of the workforce and remain stuck at 16% of senior corporate leadership proves that the current corporate model doesn't fit a majority of women. Different types of support structures are necessary for women who want to grow and lead.

Men and women are truly different. If you have any doubt, check out The Female Brain and The Male Brain, by Dr. Louann Brizendine, who confirms what so many millions of men and women over the years have felt – that women are not simply “men in skirts.”

Diversity is critical to business success. Research suggests that without a focus on diversity and supporting cultural and organizational change that allows more women into leadership, American businesses will fail to remain globally competitive.

In my coaching career, I've found that people who have open, engaged and inquisitive minds and hearts absolutely understand the need for women's advocacy and don't fight or resist it. There will always be people entrenched in the status quo who are dead set against transformation. To my mind, arguing with them is a lost cause. I go where the positive energy is, and where there is the greatest possibility for transformation, positive growth and empowerment for both men and women.

Kathy Caprino is founder and president of Ellia Communications, and author of Breakdown, Breakthrough.

Image: Dimitri Otis/Getty Images