By Heidi Carreron -
In the age of technology, you’re just a few mouse clicks away from finding events where you can connect with other women leaders, entrepreneurs, and creatives. While there are dozens of such events for various industries, attending events can be a blur of passing out business cards and trying to match names to faces. Despite the ease of connecting, it seems difficult to feel connected; as Forbes reported in 2018, 40% of American adults reported suffering from loneliness.
But what if you attend an event that immediately feels like you’re meeting up with friends rather than strangers? Enter women’s professional networking groups.
A New Kind of Woman’s Club
History has shown that things get done when women gather and connect with each other. The Women’s Club movement in the United States, for instance, gave women agency to wield influence and drive charity efforts in their communities during times when women weren’t empowered in quite the same way they are today.
Today’s professional women understand that they don’t need to be “one of the boys” to make waves in entrepreneurship and business management. Women know that it’s possible to be a hustler and also indulge in their sense of femininity through close female friendships, spa days, and shopping sprees.
That’s why so many women’s networking groups have evolved to address the needs of professionals today. Groups like Paper Dolls and Biz Babez, provide co-working office specifically for women entrepreneurs and produce engaging events such as workshops on financing businesses or pop-up boutiques.
Looking for events where you can easily get to know everyone? Organizations like Quilt provide interactive opportunities for women by hosting events in members’ own homes to share inspiring content, advice, and tools to succeed in their industries.
Organically Growing a Community of Professional Women
We sat down with Marissa Lynn Hanley, founder and facilitator of Women About Town L.A., to talk about how she grew a networking group with virtually no online presence except for Instagram. Women About Town’s community boasts over 1,000 people and holds events pushed only through word-of-mouth and email.
The idea began in 2017, when Marissa was the Director of Sales for Sprinkles Cupcakes. Part of her job involved corporate partnerships.
“I was connected to decision makers in all these different industries,” Marissa recalled, some of her contacts worked at companies like Paramount and Coca-Cola. “I wanted to bring people together to get to know me and each other a little better...women who I thought needed to meet each other and might not have met otherwise.”
The events became a hit, and Marissa continued to hold monthly gatherings even after she left Sprinkles Cupcakes. Over time, attendees invited their friends and connections. And as the community grew, the gatherings focused on uplifting women and supporting women-centered businesses.
Women About Town provides a non-traditional, interactive approach to networking. Their events vary, including exclusive shopping sprees, fun activities such as wine blending, collaborations with women-centered organizations, workout classes, or fireside chats with women business leaders. The remarkable thing? It doesn’t cost Marissa a cent to produce these events, and members don’t have to pay to RSVP.
The secret for Marissa’s success is enthusiasm for collaboration and community. There aren’t requirements to be a member and having interactive networking experiences allow members to get to know one another and feel excited for future events. It’s easy to appeal to venues, businesses, and speakers when the community boasts highly engaged executives and senior managers and a 95% RSVP retention rate.
After growing this community for nearly two years, Marissa enjoys bringing women together and hearing stories of what attendees take from it. Many members find jobs, new members feel welcome, event venues and vendors see an increase in business from members after collaborating with Women About Town.
“I’ll be the conductor that orchestrates events. I’ll find a venue, topic, speaker, what happens within the group often takes on a life of its own.” Marissa said.
Next time you want to expand your network, consider looking for groups focused on providing great experiences. As women progress in the modern business world, networking groups like Paper Dolls, Biz Babez, Quilt and WAT serve the need for professional women to attend fun, engaging events where they can learn and make genuine connections.