I attended a professional women’s conference recently as the keynote speaker and witnessed the most epic networking fail.
As the conference opened and the banquet room began to fill with hundreds of women, I found an open chair at a table near the back of the room. I wanted to get a feel for the group and meet some of the participants before speaking. Let me just say…I picked the worst table ever.
Seven women gathered there, all from the same organization. They did nothing to welcome me. I felt like an intruder, but told myself these woman are simply “networking challenged.” I was still waiting for the ice to break, when one of them leaned in to critique the appearance of someone at the next table. It was a cruel remark. Another rolled her eyes as she made fun of someone who had tried to join their group at the networking reception the evening before.
I excused myself after providing a little feedback of my own:
“This is a networking event. An opportunity to meet people and connect in meaningful ways. You (my dears) are not a panel of judges on a reality show. You are missing the whole point, but you are doing a marvelous job of reinforcing the catty, negative stereotypes about women in the workplace. Excuse me, I don’t belong at this table.”
Here’s to women everywhere who reach out, connect and add value. These are the women – the people I will surround myself with. They leave me better. They build my confidence and they inspire me. They pull me in and include me. They look for and celebrate my value. They help me open and develop my unique gifts.
These are the women I want at my table.