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Men have often had access to what is referred to as the “Old Boys Club”. This is such a commonplace informal organization that it is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, “an informal system of support and friendship through which men use their positions of influence to help others who went to the same school or college as they did or who share a similar social background.” It’s a club that women do not typically have access to, and has posed an issue to women who are also trying to build their networks.

Why Can’t Women Access These Networks?

Women don’t have access to these circles of networking for many different reasons. Simply put, some men do not want women in these groups or networks. Sometimes it is just plain bias on the part of those who are in the network themselves. Sometimes however, it is a little bit more nuanced. While many men are able to go out after work, and it’s not uncommon to grab a drink with coworkers after a 9-5, women have the obstacle of the “second shift” which bars them from these environments.

The second shift is a concept that was developed by Arlie Hochschild, that demonstrates that even if women are working and are not staying home with their children all day as housewives, they still bear that responsibility. When women get home from work, it’s still likely that they will be stuck doing household work such as cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children after they’re home from school. When women bear this responsibility, they cannot simply have a drink with their buddies after work.

Women Evolve Past the Old Boys Clubs

Women therefore need to network in different ways than men, and have to prioritize different needs when looking for places to work. Forbes published an article in 2019 that discussed the need for women to emphasize their personal relationships with the other women in their offices as well as professional relationships, saying that this would be even more mutually beneficial to them in the long run.

They also found that women who are able to cultivate that close circle of other women to support them both professionally and personally were three times more likely to get good job offers than women who did not have that experience or resource. 

Some organizations that are already helping women network are the CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women Network), The Professional Women’s Network, and Ellevate, which has a chapter in Washington, D.C.

Women can grow outside of the barriers set in place by the system that restricts them from joining informal groups such as the “old boys network” by focusing on the good quality connections they form with other women, and the shared experiences they have. Holding one another up and focusing on nourishing those relationships can be beneficial to women in the long run.

Hannah is a senior at American University. She's studying political science with a focus on race and gender in politics. She loves writing and baking, and can typically be found with a large iced coffee and a pair of knitting needles.
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