Business analysis: breaking the glass ceiling, one networking event at a time

It is unfortunately still noteworthy when a woman reaches a senior position in a big company. When interviewed they generally have to spend as much time talking about the unusual position in which they find themselves as they do about the performance of their business. Over the years, there have been various initiatives aimed at improving the numbers, while in some cases women themselves have formed networking groups as a way of giving each other support and inspiring each other to press forward and upward through the glass ceilings that are still so prevalent in many sectors.

One of these networking groups - everywoman, which was founded in 1999 by Maxine Benson and Karen Gill - earlier this month announced its latest annual awards marking the role played by women in retail. Among the women honoured in the awards, run in conjunction with Specsavers, were Jayne Cartwright, head of retail for Save the Children (who was named Specsavers Woman of the Year); Emma Harris, head of food business development for the supermarkets group ASDA; and Liz Bell, human resources director for the do-it-yourself group B&Q.

Everywoman co-founder Maxine Benson said that she hoped the awards would inspire more women into such roles. The truth is, though, that there are probably more women involved at at least some management position in retail than in many other sectors. The problem for big business in general is that many women become fed up with trying to balance their jobs with their home life and take a different option.

For many, that option is setting up on their own or with others in a similar position. Government statistics suggest that about a third of UK business owners are women, while there is evidence that the gap between male and female-owned start-ups has narrowed sharply.

Many of these businesses are so-called lifestyle businesses - a means of combining a job with bringing up a family, say - but many others develop into significant concerns. Still others would like to grow, but feel prevented by a lack of marketing skills, contacts or simply time.

It is this category that Geraldine Brooks is seeking to serve with her Sugargroup venture. When she started working for herself after a long period working in the travel business she realised that most conventional networking events were either almost entirely male or male-oriented. So she decided to set up a women-focused networking group alongside her own marketing and promotions business.

Although men are welcome to attend, the emphasis is very much on tempting women - often those working in the creative or alternative health fields - to attend by combining business with pleasure. Typically, events are held at boutique hotels or spas - places that her target audience might want to visit anyway, says Brooks. In addition, she tries to keep numbers down, so that the events are not too intimidating - 25 to 40 attendees is typical.

Having started in the area where she lives in Hastings, East Sussex, she has developed the concept to the point where there are monthly meetings in locations across London and the South-east. Nearly 600 women are signed up.

Such has been the success that Brooks has recently started a VIP section that enables members for a small amount a month to promote themselves through having a profile on the sugargroup website as well as access to discounts on products and services.

The website claims the service covers “the stuff others don't, with a holistic view on life and business”. Whatever the subject matter, the emphasis is on making the occasion enjoyable, memorable and inspiring.

And Brooks is finding that even the more established participants in this area are taking notice. She is planning joint promotions with such organisations as banks and chambers of commerce.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'