Female entrepreneurs, professional development

Why female entrepreneurs should join business networks

Fi Bendall /

A recent Facebook report on UK-based women in business has revealed the benefits of business communities for female entrepreneurs.

The report found female founders who are part of a business community have a more positive outlook about business growth than those who don’t belong to a business network or community. It also found around half of the female business owners surveyed said they did not belong to any business community or network.

Speaking to UK newspaper The Telegraph, Facebook’s European vice president, Nicola Mendelsohn, said growing a business is “particularly tough for female business leaders”, which makes it all the more important for women to join such networks.

“Being part of a business community can make all the difference,” she said.

Some of the report’s other findings were that almost half of the women surveyed said connecting with other business people would greatly benefit their business; about a third are unsure where to go to find suitable groups or networks; and 31% said the current business environment is more conducive to male business leaders.

The benefits of being part of a business network or community for small business owners and entrepreneurs are numerous, especially, but not only, for women. There’s a tendency among entrepreneurs to want to do it all by themselves. Partly it is pride in our independence, and partly it is the genuine sense we don’t have the hours in the day to commit to joining and participating in outside group activity.

However, you’re not being any less independent by becoming a member of a business group or network, and the time you spend as part of one can be advantageous — professionally as well as personally. Joining the right business group can be an excellent way to fast-track your networking strategy.

An interesting study into networking and the sharing of information between female business owners in France’s wine industry showed women made excellent use of their networks because, as women, they were often shut out of traditional networks.

The study found women tended to develop their own stronger networks that engendered higher sharing and trust levels than those in the male networks. The experience of being on the outer in a chauvinistic industry moved the women towards co-operation, in order to overcome discrimination. This meant the women shared more and better quality information, allowing their businesses to grow.

Networking is an integral part of business. However, even more significant is how you go about building the right network for you. Networking expert Janine Garner says it best: “It’s about seeing the lines that connect people and ideas to create opportunity”.

Joining a business network these days is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are so many great business groups out there for you to explore that you should be able to find at least one that works for you. For example, there are almost 30 different member networks as part of The Female Social Network, and each one offers something unique and valuable to its members. (Disclaimer: I am the founder and chief executive of The Female Social Network).

So if you’re not a member of a business group or network yet, do a little research and find a few that you think might work for you. Once you become part of a business group, you will start to see all sorts of opportunities open up for you and your business.

As well as that, you build relationships and even friendships with people who are in the same boat as you; people who get what it means when you have a whinge about red tape or cash flow, or any of the other bugbears small business people and entrepreneurs encounter.

NOW READ: A checklist for success from Australia’s top female entrepreneurs

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Fi Bendall

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Female Social Network and a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence, who was described by CEO Magazine as 'The CEO's Secret Weapon'. An expert and pioneer in digital strategy, she has over 23 years’ experience in the digital and tech sectors.

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