Women Only Networking
Does It Have A Place In This Age Of Equality?

If you’ve been around Your Partnerships for any length of time, you will probably have noticed women-only business lunches taking place in different venues across the South West. Beginning in Cornwall, hosted by the amazing Jay-Anne Dingwall, the concept has spread, with events taking place in Plymouth, Exeter and Barnstaple in Devon, and Taunton in Somerset.

Hannah Danson of Your Partnerships magazine has spoken to several of the Ambassadors for these events, to find out what makes them special, and why there is still a need for them. See the end of the article for connection details for all the Ambassadors.

Why we need women-only networking
Each of the Ambassadors has their own reasons for choosing to host this event, but they were unanimous on the need for it, and the distinctiveness too. Jay-anne, for Cornwall, says there’s a different energy when there are just women present. There’s a vulnerability, and sharing without judging. She aims to create a safe space, where women don’t need to be amazing, but can admit to struggling and needing help.

Emm Sharpe, former Ambassador for Taunton, explained that in the past, networking was male-dominated, so creating a space where women can champion each other is valuable. She feels there is less of a competitive edge, less of a sales-pitchy spirit to the introductions, and she describes it as a sisterhood. The mixture of ages is valuable too, giving space for those with more life-experience to share with others just beginning their journey. She sought to focus on health and wellbeing at her events, looking at the whole person, not just the business.

Women run to different timetables
When Shannon, former ambassador for Exeter, began networking, it was in a women-only group, and as she stretched her networking wings, felt that she held back more in mixed events, where there were fewer women than men, generally speaking. She realised that any mixed events were timed so that they didn’t work around the school run, or children’s dinner times, and were inconvenient for working mums to attend, meaning fewer women came, perpetuating the gender imbalance. Hence her event is in the middle of the day, as many of the others are. It can be lonely, being a woman running a business, especially if your friend-circle consists of people not working or with regular jobs, and you don’t know many entrepreneurs or sole traders. Taking time out of the business, away from your laptop, can be very necessary, to recharge, and step back and find who you are, especially if your life seems to consist of juggling many hats.

Hooray for men who champion women!
All of this isn’t to say that there are no men who champion women, and indeed Your Partnerships has some excellent men modelling just that, including Brock, Warren and Jon. This is part of why women-only events occur within the Your Partnerships umbrella in the first place, but also that they recognise the value of creating a variety of spaces to encourage different people to network in a way that feels most necessary and comfortable to them.

A question that hasn’t come up, yet, is around transgender women. But if you’re reading this and wondering whether you’d
be welcome as a trans woman, then yes, absolutely. Come along, and join the sisterhood!
Article written by Hannah Danson


Jay-Anne Dingwall, Ambassador for the Cornwall event, on the 2nd Thursday of the month at the Penventon Hotel in Redruth.

There will be a new North Devon Women in Business event hopefully launching in early 2024 – watch this space!
If you are interested in being Ambassador for a Women in Business event, please contact the team, who will be happy to chat with you.