(Picture: Getty)Does the word ‘networking’ send a shiver of fear down your spine? Us too.
The term conjures up images of ‘working the room’ in an 80s power suit, sweaty handshakes with balding men, cringe-worthy small talk, vinegary glasses of warm white wine.
And we don’t love the idea of giving up our extra-curricular hours after work either.
Why should we sacrifice a precious evening to spend it making painful, stilted conversation with people we don’t even know? Particularly when it’s hard to see what potential benefits it could even have for your career.
It’s tempting to think that meaningful connections can now be made entirely online. Why leave my house when I can sell myself to potential employers on Twitter and LinkedIn?
But face-to-face networking is still important. The lasting impression you can make during a physical meeting shouldn’t be underestimated.
For men, networking comes easily. Many professional men have in-built, natural networks of influential people – through social groups, sports teams, university connections.
Women have been historically left out of this tradition. There are far fewer organic ways for women to meet, schmooze with and impress other professional women.
Charlie and two of her close friends decided to set up Artemis – an informal network connecting women across industries – because they want to change the way women think about networking.
‘Networking is a much maligned concept for both sexes, I think,’ Charlie tells Metro.co.uk.
Artemis holds regular brunches with inspirational speakers and plenty of Prosecco (Picture: Artemis/Metro.co.uk)‘It has become synonymous with awkward cups and saucers, the handshake vs the single or double kiss debate and the late weeknights you have to really rally your energy for.
‘Meeting new people is undoubtedly important, but the environment in which you do it can make or break the potential of those encounters. We want to foster informality, intimacy and openness at our events – encouraging a spirit of generosity and support that you’re not likely to find at the conference venue bar.
‘I can’t speak for all women, but one of the turn-offs for me when it comes to corporate, traditional networking formats is the perceptible sense of personal agenda that hangs over a large, smartly-dressed crowd.
‘I find that lots of the men I know are more comfortable than I am with this expectation.
‘I also find that the more open I am to offering my skills, time or contacts, the more I receive; ambition is commendable, but so is the ability to suspend your personal agenda and that’s the expectation we’ve tried to set through Artemis.’
Charlie and her co-founders are keen to spread the message that networking doesn’t have to be horrible. They think women helping women is the key to professional progression – but to do that, women need to right environment.
‘Traditionally, “networking” has been a power term, coined and conceptualised over time by men,’ explains the Artemis team.
‘At one end of the spectrum, you let it rain business cards and you show off. At the other end, it’s stuffy rooms, forgettable speakers, and crisps. Lots of crisps.
‘You have to bring 110% of your energy to meet-and-greet – there’s no time for tangential conversations and certainly no space for vulnerability.
‘Networking must change and evolve for both men and women – so at Artemis we’re all about creating that safe space for like-minded women who are genuinely, selflessly interested in one another.
The menu is always on point (Picture: Artemis/Metro.co.uk)It seems to come down to the intrinsic differences in the ways in which men and women communicate.
‘Men’s networking is often geared towards selling status and achievements, and so the environments where networking happens don’t often facilitate the best connections between women,’ the team explain.
‘This stems from the fact that there are fewer women setting examples from the top of most industries.
‘Certainly the three of us want to feel supported and connect on a more emotional level than those events allow – we want to feel a sense of belonging and then rise, supported, to the top, rather than our careers becoming an ongoing competition.’
There is a false stereotype about professional women – that we are protectionist, unwilling to help, reluctant to share our resources. Charlie and her co-founders know this to be fundamentally untrue and the women who come to their events continue to prove otherwise.
Charlie introduces the speaker (Picture: Artemis/Metro.co.uk)‘One attendee recently thanked us for being “so willing to share our friends”, which surprised us, but maybe it’s true – in a crazy, pacey city of flux, it’s rare that we connect our precious mates to others for fear of losing something stable, and valuable emotional support. Which makes no sense in our time.
‘I’m not sure how convinced I am of the hunter-gatherer justification for this tendency; the theory that men had to collaborate and connect with larger groups to maximise their chances of hunting success, while women wanted to divide the fruits of their daily forage with as few as possible – but we’re certainly not foraging anymore.
‘There is no finite value in friendship; you multiply it by making an introduction, you don’t halve it.
‘We’re not quite there yet in terms of gender equality in the workplace – and we can only achieve that through connecting with each other.
‘The more women meet other women, the more they can be inspired and supported to strive for a working life that brings out the best in us.
When women work together to empower each other, our potential is limitless – and it is this belief that is at the heart of what Artemis is trying to achieve.
‘Women have an innate understanding of the investments required in work, family and friendships – we find ourselves speaking the same language when we get together, but that’s not a language currently spoken by most senior management, or reflected in traditional industries and contracts.
‘If we move to change that collectively, that’s going to be powerful.’
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