I've written before about the mythology of the "Queen Bee" Syndrome that suggests women who rise to top positions take on characteristics of a Queen Bee -- dominant or controlling in a particular group and not inclusive or helpful to other women. I believe this behavior is becoming a thing of the past and it is changing the take on some other positive characteristics of bees - that of the hive mind.
Women are developing "swarm intelligence" -- forming self-organized systems where the collective behavior is simply to help one another. This shows up in the tremendous growth of women's professional organizations, where women come together toward a universal higher consciousness (called "universal mind" in hive mind terms) with the purpose of helping one another grow and succeed individually and collectively. Women understand that helping each other helps the hive, i.e., contributing to other women's success is ultimately helpful to our companies, our communities, our global economy (and ourselves!).
Yes, these women's leadership organizations have been around for quite a while, but in the past 5-10 years many more have emerged and those in existence have grown exponentially. Many have the same or a similar vision and mission and that is actually fine. Many women I know join several groups because they want to find the ones that have the right fit, with people who are similar to in level, stage of life, geography, and/or background. Women want groups that are warm, where we feel welcomed and are a place where authentic connections can be made. We don't network in the same ways men do and don't want to attend events where we pass cards around or have a superficial conversation that starts with what do you do and leads to what can you do for me.
Women understand that having a strong professional network is critical to:
• our feeling part of something larger than us
• helping us see our full potential
• being part of a group that gives us an outlet to share issues we need trusted advice on, but may not want to discuss with a colleague at work where we don't want to show vulnerability
• having a place where we can let our hair down and ask for help from someone who is in a similar role.
Women crave the safety of a network of other women who have no agenda other than to unequivocally support the other women in the group and truly want their success as much as they want their own. If a woman has ever been talked to about being emotional at work, she holds in all the tension during the workday and just having a place where tears are OK when talking about an issue, personal or work related, can be an amazing relief.
This is particularly true for women in male dominated professions, or women who have risen in their organizations and are now in the minority on a male dominated leadership team. Their core network is often male dominated because that is whom they work with and who is in power in their organization. Women seek out women's organizations to find peers, sponsors, and trusted advisers who could be included in and add balance to their core network or Personal Board of Directors.
And there is something just lovely about hanging out and laughing with women particularly when we work in male dominated industries. Some women have told me it's the only time they dress up because they know other women will appreciate their shoes/outfit and they enjoy that opportunity. Women recognize we absolutely need and want male advocates and the men in our networks, but we also need a balance of women, and female energy -- the energy of the hive if we want to have a strong network.
At NQuotient, I'm honored to be working with a team of men and women who are focused on supporting women in having balanced networks that promote career success. As one of our advisers, Rob Cross reminds us, we don't need to build large networks of loose affiliations, but one with high-quality relationships that create opportunities and energize us.
We all have a strong need to connect with a higher purpose and while many companies are moving toward conscious capitalism to bring a focus on meaning back to work, most of us leverage our networks to help us rejuvenate, re-energize and re-connect to a universal higher consciousness.