Why Is It Bad News That 71% Of Women Are In Office Support Groups?

A new survey finds that 71% of women with access to female support groups at work take advantage of them. Does that sound like good news or bad news to you? According to the Debbie Downers at the Wall Street Journal, it’s a sign that women’s support networks are practically useless. “Many companies are keen to establish themselves as female-friendly by offering support networks for women,” the paper say, “but such efforts might not be doing much good.” Huh?

The new survey, from the Simmons School of Management, involved 166 professional women who had access to support groups at work. Of the 29% who were not involved, most explained that it was because they just didn’t have time. But “others” — the Journal doesn’t say how many — “didn’t see its value or weren’t eligible to join.” So I guess that’s definitive proof that women’s networks “fall short,” as their headline puts it.

Groups deemed “very effective” by members had certain things in common: They met often, were open to both genders, and had financial help from the company.
It’s true that the news from the survey is not all rosy: About three-quarters of women who belong to support networks said their groups are “somewhat” or “not at all” effective in meeting goals like promoting women and networking.

But don’t get all optimistic about the fact that the vast majority of women with access to support groups participate in them and are able to identify what works and what doesn’t. As the killjoy Journal wisely notes, “even the most successful women’s network can’t bring about gender parity on its own.” Apparently, anything less than 100% participation in 100% effective groups that immediately bring about 100% gender parity is a failure.

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