Posted by: ginalazenby | December 4, 2018

The Power of Women’s Gatherings

The Power of Women Gathering & Building Community in Professional Circles

A “Women’s Gathering” Workshop given at Lady Val’s Networking Lunch

Last week I was invited to give a workshop about Women’s Gatherings, something I have been hosting for many years all over the world. The post lunch workshop is a traditional offering at the Lady Val Lunch Club for guests who linger after the main event is over. We were already a ‘gathering’ of women so I explained the value of women being together and creating listening circles to share more deeply and build community.

Gina with Lady Val Corbett

For the last 13 years Lady Val Corbett has done a stunning job of connecting professional women and creating community with her regular lunch events. She attracts prominent and interesting women to come share their stories and she constantly encourages women to network and support each other. Names and biographies of all guests are shared in advance so it is easier to seek out some that you might be interested in making specific contact with.  By introducing the Women’s Gathering Circle last week, I gave a demonstration of how we can create opportunities for even deeper sharing and stronger bonds among the community of women. 

How I came to be working with women

  • A new chapter: During the last 25 years most of my work has been in what you might describe as the human potential movement. It all began after a personal crisis caused me to stop running my Public Relations agency and start a completely new chapter in my life by launching the London Personal Development Centre in 1993. That was all part of my own healing. Following that I went on to create a professional feng shui school and training programme, the first in the world, and all my work was about people learning, stretching and finding ways to be of service and live a more purposeful life. 
  • Women committed to growth: Through the years, 90% of my audience was female. Women seemed to be more willing to take on the self enquiry and curiosity to grow and change. 
  • in the 2000s I started to focus my education program solely on women and particularly, the women who stepped forward hungry for change. There seemed to be a wave of women leaving corporations and finding ways to reinvent themselves in new roles.  Since 2008 I have discovered the power that Women’s Gatherings can have in supporting women entrepreneurs to grow in confidence outside of the protection of a corporate structure ….and also blossom outside of its constraints. 
  • A particular passion that developed for me was exploring Feminine Leadership and the different gifts that women can bring.  During the last decade, through Women’s Gatherings and the Retreat programmes I offered, I explored and wrote about the DIFFERENCE that women bring. It is important for society that women do not try to be clones of men, as much as the system tries very hard to make them do that. Our value in bringing balance to the world is to bring our feminine qualities and nature to a highly masculine culture that is out of balance for not recognising and having valued the powerful contribution of the feminine. 
  • System out of balance: This is in no way an anti-men initiative. We all need to work to change a system created by men for men which is now very out of balance. The feminine qualities of compassion, listening, caring and relationship-focus are all human qualities that men are capable of expressing, if only the dominant culture allowed. The shift that is needed requires women to stand in their power and show men that there are other ways of being that will be more productive and more life-enhancing.

How the first Women’s Gathering emerged

  • Back in 2007 I joined an international Entrepreneur network called XL (Extraordinary Lives). The monthly networking events created were very OLD paradigm in that they involved a short period of time for people to stand and network before sitting theatre style, facing a stage with a speaker. Ninety minutes of listening, mostly a one-sided one way communication and then people would go home.  Each month the speaker was male and with the audience being at least 50% women, we simply got frustrated at our lack of representation.
  • A few of us decided we wanted more and that this was not helping us really connect and build community so my business partner and I proposed an alternative …. and we created a space just for professional women.  
  • We created an event that became a Women’s Circle and at that first event we set out our rules … practice .. for a MONTHLY gathering

The Power of the Circle

  • A circle is a format where everyone has a voice, with equal weight.  Our gathering would not be dependent on outside speakers, rather it was about us learning from each other, we recognised we had our own wisdom to share.
  • The Circle format provided a deep listening space for all to be heard. This is a very rare opportunity in society, to be listened and heard without judgement and the need to fix. Simply listening is a gift that provides people space and can be very healing.
  • Sharing food together was very important to us. Its co-creation and everyone’s participation was a way of creating togetherness and community.  Privacy was key  ..  all of this had to happen in a home or a secluded space.
  • The food was cooked by me or my business partner and we always welcomed and encouraged help in the kitchen so that it was a community effort. As I have gone on to create these gatherings around the world, situations have varied and sometimes I have cooked while other occasions the Pot Luck has worked. This is where the meal is truly a joint community effort with everyone bringing a dish.
  • The London gathering started in 2008 continued for many years until my business partner and I both left our London homes but the community bonds developed in those years remain strong. Not only were good connections made for business partnerships and cooperation but also deep bonds that the women can rely on through the years.

The Value of the Women’s Gathering

  • During our years of Women’s Gatherings we witnessed each other’s journeys and transitions. For many there was common ground where a BIG LEAP had been taken from Corporate safety into what can be an entrepreneurial wilderness.  Not only did we provide a supportive infrastructure of skills sharing but also emotional support.
  • We elevated each other. This was space where we could share our highs and lows and be supported. We received recognition for our talents, gifts and strengths. Where we might not be able to articulate them directly ourselves, they were seen and fed back to us. Being truly seen for who we are, can be all we need to move forward with greater confidence.
  • As many women were moving through life transitions and reinventing themselves in new careers and passions, the regular Gatherings provided a lifeline. The community that emerged from the Gatherings helped create a solid foundation for the many women starting a new life.  As holistic beings, if our life is off kilter then we know our business will suffer so all round personal support also helped us in business.
  • The community that grew out of these regular Women’s Gatherings in central London was so successful that the entire global Entrepreneur network was inspired to take the same circle format (in a non-gender way) and role it out globally. They recognised the power of the circle to be a more effective way of building community than attendance at traditional speaker-led network events.

Women Gathering Around the World 

  • For the last decade I have been travelling extensively and I went on to host the Women’s Gatherings format all over the world: New Zealand, Australia (Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne), Bali, Canada (Vancouver, Cortes Island), USA (San Francisco, LA) and my home territory of Yorkshire.
  • Throughout I learned so much about women .. and about myself.  How the world over, we are all the same!  We face the same challenges in balancing our business lives with the demands of home, family and personal growth. We have the same needs and yearnings for recognition and to be of service and of use to the world beyond our homes and family. Finding and following our calling makes us come alive, no matter what challenges emerge in its execution. We all reached a point where we can’t not do what makes our hearts sing.. however difficult!
  • In San Francisco, I still host an annual gathering to which many of the same women come who first participated in 2009.
  • Many of the most recent Women’s Gathering have started to attract THREE generations. The majority age group has been women in their 40s and 50s. Many women in their 70s have increasingly set aside cultural norms and are continuing their entrepreneurial careers in what others might call their ‘retirement’ years, Retiring they are not and they are starting new ventures with great energy and wisdom. This is very inspiring to younger generations and none more so than the 20s 30s age group who are facing potential career burn out much younger and showing up at women’s gathering for support.
  • Women’s Gatherings lift women up and refine their confidence when they have moments of doubt. This is normal. We never stop having moments of doubt so it’s good to know we are not alone and that others have been through, or are going through, what we might be coping with.
  • Being in a community circle of feminine energy helps women to strengthen our voices so that when we move out of a female space into male world working with the men we love, we feel more empowered to speak about how we feel and what is right. 

What about the men?

  • Women’s Gatherings are not anti-male meetings, they are simply without men, female-only spaces. There is a very different energy to the space when even one man is present.  And men need this kind of single-sex community support too. It’s good to see that a men’s movement is starting to happen for them to share feelings. 
  • Masculinity is changing and it is important that men kind find forums where they can safely explore wider and different expressions of masculinity in a compassionate space.

Why do we need Women’s Gatherings now?

  • While we have a system and culture that values and prizes men and masculinity and holds them as better and superior to women and the feminine, we need these gathering spaces to strengthen us women.
  • The more we understand our differences, both cultural and biological, the more we realise that all humans have access to all modalities which are perceived to be either masculine or feminine. Men have a  feminine side to draw on as much as women are able to use their masculine drive and other qualities. 
  • The problems we have in business and society stem from an over-reliance on masculine ways. That is becoming known as ‘toxic masculinity’. This is a very unhelpful expression as it truncates the full range of masculine qualities to good and bad. Anything pushed to the extreme will be out of balance. We need a weaving together of all human emotions and qualities that are seen as feminine and and masculine.
  • A purely female space helps women strengthen our voices so we feel more confident and  supported in male environments.

Our Practice Today at Lady’s Lunch Workshop

  • The women gathered into circle groups of 8, minimum 6.
  • Sitting with no table or other barriers in between 
  • 1st round – answer a question with 2 minutes each – keep your own time in the circle
  • 2nd round – share how was that?
  • Before the circle sharing opens, everyone takes one minute of silent reflection to get present and prepare for their sharing. Reflecting on your skills and talents .. your gifts, your strengths that you draw on for your role or business…..
  • The QUESTION to answer today – being November there is an end of awareness: 
  • share who you are … name .. role… location….  short, simple statement.
  • 1st part of the Question = 
  • What strength within have you drawn upon that has really helped you this last year?
  • 2nd part of the Question = 
  • Where have you stumbled, felt challenged … and perhaps need help and support in 2019?
  • There is Permission here to share your strengths, which is something women mostly shy away from.
  • After the two minute of each person sharing, there is a short second round – what did that feel like?  Who do you want further connection with? where can you offer support?
  • Basically 2 minutes: story about yourself. Identify – Strength (permission given) + express a need.
  • Rules for today
  • It is a safe space … no sharing outside circle of personal details
  • Start off with a minute of quiet.
  • Listen with full attention. Give the gift of deep listening
  • It’s a small circle .. don’t react, reach across & empathise, don’t chip in. Listen only
  • One person acts as focaliser to keep an eye on time, and they also share. .

Join or Host a Women’s Gathering

I offered an invitation to any woman who wants to start their own Women’s Gathering in their community locations. I can guide them in how to do this. 

I also offer participation in an online women’s gathering on Zoom. Contact me.

Read MORE about all the Women’s Gatherings I have hosted around the world.

All the reports collated from Women’s Gatherings

Read MORE about the value of Women’s Gatherings

 

Dame Stella Rimington was the keynote speaker at this event … read my blog post about how she became Britain’s top woman spy ..

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