22781140OK, I’m used to people falsely calling me a sexist against men. *yawn* I had to laugh at this email I received from a guy who apparently has a problem with me championing women (actually he called me a racist and a sexist because of my Empowered Latina and Empowered Black Women networks under Empower Me). I generally ignore the very few email I get in that tone but I had to address it this time. I’m not going to sit here and defend myself against those idiotic claims of racism or sexism as those who know me or have read anything from me know my true heart.

So I get an email chastising me regarding my perceived “Old Boys Network Bashing”. I had to laugh. The gentleman said he felt that by encouraging women and writing a book dedicated solely to women and networking made me a sexist. He said I was ushering in the New Girls Network that kept men out. He went on to say that we all, men and women need to move forward and network with one another. I agreed with that. My question is, when did I say men and women can’t network together? Look at my own network and you’ll find men and women from all races, countries, industries, stations in life and career, etc. As long as a person can be comfortable in a mutually beneficial networking relationship, I don’t care if they are pink with polka dots from the moon. I will network with them with no hesitation or problem.

I have been very vocal about women being careful about focusing too heavily on the OBN. Yes, to some degree, it does still exist. But the difference is that today, in 2008, it is no longer the barrier it once was. For one, men are a lot more progressive these days and open to doing business with women. There are a lot more women in power positions than there were 20 years ago. And finally, I believe this generation of business people are moving beyond gender as long as a business idea (or relationship) makes sense. I also agree that there are instances where women do need something of their own. I mention in my book that sometimes it’s good to have a network within your own (gender, ethnicity, industry, etc). I also said not to make them your primary network.

I don’t know about you, but I look forward to a day where diversity is a given, not a mandate. I align myself with people who fit in line with my business and professional objectives. I open myself to learn about other businesses, countries, cultures, practices, etc. So for someone to call me a sexist or racist is laughable at best. This is a global society. Anyone who limits themselves to their “own” (gender, ethnicity, sorority, fraternity, economic class, etc) is doing themselves a grave disservice. So yes, while I did write a book targeted to women (gee I AM a woman…go figure), the principles in the book work from men and women and I stated this. We need to be focusing on how to work together, not looking for ways to exclude. We need to focus on building solid relationships and learning from one another. Not whining that a group is exclusive. If it’s really that exclusive, do you really want to be part of it to begin with? We all need to recognize that at times, it makes sense for people to want to congregate with people like them. But we can’t read too much into it. Recognize it for what it is and keep it moving. I mean really, I’m half black and half hispanic. Are you seriously telling me that I’m not allowed to join groups for either ethnicity without someone reading more into it than they should? Just because I’m a woman, does this mean it’s wrong for me to join a women’s group just so I don’t offend men? Seriously. As long as it isn’t an inflammatory or vindictively exclusive group, I say do what you do and forget what other people think.

So there may or may not be a “New Girls Network” out there. If there is, more power to them. People, let’s focus on real issues and stop trying to make something out of nothing. It’s insulting that I even have to address this in 2008.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham
International Networker