Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Are gender-specific groups really helping women?

Do we need
gender-specific groups?

It may be time we start rethinking the purpose of women-only groups in our communities.

Is there a problem with equal opportunity for women? Yes.

Do we need to address these problems, and empower girls and women to face this? Yes. Is there a need for solidarity and support? Yes.

Thankfully, in recent years, there has been a growth in groups whose messages stem from one of come socialize and network with other women like you. But with a rise in popularity of these types of groups, I feel compelled to challenge the effectiveness of these women-centric groups.

Let me be clear here in saying that I believe strongly in support and empowerment for women. Being a woman and working in the male-dominant tech industry, I recognize the struggles that many women face and I am aware of the work still needing to be done to even the playing field. I believe in being active toward affecting change locally in my community, professionally with my peers, as well as personally within my own social circles.

there is an inherent problem with the way the groups are organized and maintained

Unfortunately, from what I have seen in these groups in the community, there is an inherent problem with the way many of these groups are organized and maintained. Clearly the aim is to support the members through camaraderie, however after acknowledging the struggles these women face, there is a failure to provide practical means for their members to become members of their broader community in a safe way.

there should be more effort toward facilitating positive change in the environments these women find themselves in

I have personally joined over a dozen of these types of groups over the last several years, and the reason I have started pulling out of most of these groups is a degradation of the messaging. What I mean by this are the inevitable bitch fests. What I often find are groups of women socializing, listening to a guest speaker, or relating their personal accounts that eventually spiral into simply complaining about the men in their lives with a stream of predictable: ‘we are marginalized, we are mistreated, we are ignored, we are overlooked, we are patronized, we are disrespected and facing it all every day sucks.

While these things are often true, as these groups grow and develop and gain more members, there should be more effort toward facilitating positive change in the environments these women find themselves in.

The mandate of women-centric groups should be to empower and support while also encouraging practical, positive change.

Support is necessary. Empowerment is necessary. Even venting and articulating struggles can be necessary for self-care.

By not enabling the women in these groups to address their problems with real solutions, and by not giving them practical skills to attempt to make those environments safe spaces to live and work in… all those groups are going to do is create space for socializing to devolve into bitch fests. The last thing we need from these groups is more negativity breeding dreaded femi-nazis or man-haters.

The mandate of women-centric groups should be to empower and support while also encouraging practical, positive change. Until and unless this happens, I have to question what these groups are really doing for the community.