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Debunking the myth about ‘women only’ spaces.

by Catherine Asta Labbett

One of our Tribe Bosses encountered her first comment from a man about the fact we are a collective for women the other day, he felt that “there is too much segregation these days”

I’ve had this A LOT over the past 2 years.  The questions of “why in the age of diversity and inclusion do we need women only groups and spaces?” and the abusive comments we receive from men in response to news articles online that we are launching a new Tribe in their town or city.

It’s a question I was interviewed by CNN about, and it’s something I was asked last year on BBC Radio 5 Live. 

Do other female organisations face this? 

I thought I would start by debunking the myth. 

Equality isn’t about trying to make everyone the same.

We want equality of opportunity. Diversity is what makes us different, and I’m a massive champion of celebrating what makes us different, as opposed to seeking to be the same. 

But the reality is, women have not ever had equality of opportunity. Huge progress is being made, but we still cannot say in 2019 that women no longer face disadvantage.

Embracing diversity very often means doing things differently. Its not a level playing field out there. Women don’t automatically get a seat at the table. We do not yet live in an equal world. 

The headlines this week from research conducted by the Treasury found that only 1p in every £1 on VC investment goes to Female Founders, with 89p in every £1 going to Male Founders.  

Why is that? 

Some of the responses from our community on this shocked us. The stories of pitches with Male venture capitalists who would only speak and ask questions to the Male co-founder. The Female Founders not being taken seriously. The Female Founders not even knowing that stuff like this even exists. 

Then there’s Maternity discrimination. The gender pay gap. The lack of diversity at board level. Women under represented in certain sectors.

Why wouldn’t we create safe spaces where women feel empowered to grow?

To meet other women in their local community who feel the same as them. To improve confidence. To equip them with knowledge? To address the very real challenges women face in business on their own – stripping back the ego driven barriers that stop so many women from getting out there and connecting. 

This isn’t about reverse discrimination, or sexism. 

Far from it. 

We’ve just created a space where women feel safe, comfortable, relaxed and inspired. 

And we’re proud of that. 

We’re not for everyone, but we are there for the women who need us. We are inclusive. We don’t select our members. We’re accessible. We’re not ageist. We connect with each other’s stories and the stories behind WHY so many of us quit the 9-5. 

Men join us on our panels and come and share their expertise through our power hours at our meet ups. And we value their insights, their knowledge, their expertise and their experience. 

We don’t sell to each other, but the relationships and trust we are creating, means that we are all doing business with each other. We share our knowledge and we share our fears.

We are a support network.

We share similar challenges, but we aren’t pink and fluffy. 

When you work from your kitchen table with little human contact day to day, you need a support network. Lots of our members are members of a number of groups and networks. Some female, some mixed gender, some profession specific. 

We all get different things from the variety that is on offer. 

We all need to find our Tribe. 

One thing I do know is this. We are stronger together. We are a hidden workforce and collectively we have a much BIGGER voice and a seat at the table. 

We asked our members to describe in 1 word what being a member of Girl Tribe Gang means to them and this is what they said:

“Empowering, inspiring, escape, safety net, belonging, game changing, me time, informative, saviour, collaborating, people, connecting, fierce, passionate, warmth, inclusive.”

Would men connect with this? Would men want their own version of Girl Tribe Gang? 

When you look underneath the word ‘female networking’ it’s a whole lot more than ‘just’ networking. We are an eco-system of support. 

Gender equality is not about making men and women the same.

Women want safe spaces where they can show their vulnerabilities, where they can grow their confidence without judgement or competitiveness. Where they can connect on an emotional level. 

Women are stronger together.

One of our Tribe Bosses is getting married to her beautiful wife to be in June and she is regularly asked ‘why is there still a need for pride?’ 

Her response? 

“It’s exactly the same,  – while discrimination, lack of equality and distinct disadvantage exist, there will always be a need for awareness, peer support and community.” 

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