Women give company networks lukewarm reviews, study finds
Thursday, March 29, 2012
women do not see women’s networks or employee resource groups as a magic bullet
for solving gender inequality in the workplace, but the more involved women are
with the networks, the greater they value them, according to a study by the
Center for Gender in Organizations at the Simmons School of Management.
In a survey of
women at the 2011 Simmons College Leadership Conference, middle to senior-level
women said they believe the efficacy of a women's network at work is only as
strong as a company's investment in the group and the depth of its connection
with the overall organizational strategy. Specifically, the study found that
women believe these networks were of particular value when they provided
skill-building opportunities, such as training, mentoring and coaching, and
visibility, including exposure to senior management.
resources and efforts are devoted to creating a women's network, supported by
top management -- one that that delivers well-organized and specific
programming -- it has an impact,” said Patricia Deyton, CGO faculty director and
co-author of the study. "The study confirms that it’s simply beyond the scope
of women’s networks alone to address the subtle cultural barriers that often
impede women's ability to ascend to leadership positions.”
The study, which
surveyed 268 businesswomen with extensive work experience, found that women
believe their networks would be more effective with increased involvement by
senior management, both male and female; more concrete planned programming; and
a better overall organization and communications.
reported that the least valuable outcome provided by women's networks were
social events and assistance with family issues. Further, the study found that
African-American women were more likely to be actively involved and were more
likely to believe the network was effective at meeting goals and promoting
More than 60 percent of the women surveyed indicated their organization had a women’s
network. Of these, just over half (55 percent) are actively or occasionally
involved in their network’s activities. Sixteen percent of women’s ERG members
were only rarely involved in their activities.
30 percent of the respondents said they are not members of their companies’
women’s network. When asked why, 55 percent cited a lack of time. Other reasons
given for not joining a network included not sharing the goals of the network,
not seeing value in the network and not being eligible.
members of women’s networks gave them slightly higher marks for meeting the
network’s goals than for promoting women. Seven in 10 (71 percent) of network
members said they were "somewhat effective” in meeting the group’s goals; two
in 10 (21 percent) said they were "very effective” in meeting goals. Eight
percent judged them to be "not at all effective” in meeting goals.
70 percent of network members said they were "somewhat effective” in promoting
women. Sixteen percent judged them "very effective.” A similar amount, 15
percent, said they were not effective at all in promoting women.