International Women’s Day took place on Friday 8th March 2013, giving many women a platform from which to promote women’s rights and gender equality.
At the forefront are women’s networks: contrary to popular thought, these are not clubs of “ladies who lunch”.
These are networks of women who have valid reasons for joining together to promote their network’s cause. And women’s networks are greatly needed in Hong Kong.
These networks form for different reasons. Some are launched in response to internal, HR related disputes facing the women in that particular workplace; some are launched for fundraising or networking purposes.
If you are thinking about setting up your own women’s network the best advice we could give you is a piece of advice we were given by Sally Hasler of the Women’s Foundation of Hong Kong: decide what your focus is and go about doing it really well.
Don’t try to spread yourselves too thin. Choosing three activities or purposes makes it easier to explain why you have decided to launch your network, it can create attainable goals, and of course, it provides you and your members with a focus.
The next piece of advice is to hold a few successful functions in quick succession to get your name established.
Having key note speakers works well as it creates a focal point of your event. If you get key note speakers who are crowd pullers, so much the better. It can also mean that you get taken more seriously and don’t get labelled a “ladies who lunch” group.
It is also vital to have men on board and actively supporting women’s networks by attending events because the stark reality is that in Hong Kong the percentage of women at board level is poor.
HKEx research found that Women make up just 10.7% of directors of all listed issuers in Hong Kong. It is likely therefore that any woman seeking directorship is going to have to be promoted or interviewed by a man to get there.
We need more men who see the value in a diverse boardroom taking part in these women’s networks. Male champions are vital to women’s networks and to more women succeeding in reaching board level positions.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Scherzade Westwood is Co-Chairwoman of W@OLN and Legal Assistant in Matrimonial Law at Oldham Li & Nie Lawyers.