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
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam