Women-only networking functions go beyond business card exchanges

Francine Huff

Terry Kohl of Wild Rose, Wis., recently attended a girls-night-out at a fitness club in her community. Attendees were able to check out the facilities, speak with trainers and participate in other fun activities unrelated to the club. Although the event was a nice way to promote the fitness club, the main goal wasn't to get people to sign up for memberships.

"It wasn't such a heavily promotional type of thing...They decided to have a fun night, inviting women only, to re-establish who they were, where they were and what they had to offer," says Kohl, president of Media Management Marketing, a PR firm in the automotive industry, and the author of Lost Your Job? Now What!

Although the focus wasn't really on common networking, Kohl says she saw a lot of business cards being exchanged. "When you get a bunch of women together you're going to have networking whether you want to or not."

Across the U.S. women are being drawn to female-only networking events in large numbers. As with functions attended by men, these meetings allow them to trade job leads, swap advice on advancing their careers and promote their businesses. But women-only events sometimes offer a more relaxed and supportive atmosphere than functions that include men. In addition to the typical business card exchanges, breakfast meetings and luncheons, recent women's networking events around the country have included outings to jewelry and shoe stores, a scavenger hunt, dance classes and spa days.

But aside from having a good time, is it really important for women to attend networking functions without the opposite sex? Absolutely, say many women who have become successful in their fields.