Take off the gender lenses and network

Wendy Nyakurewa: Assistant Editor

Equally, have you ever noticed how very few men find the time to offer the same support when their female counterparts have an event going on, be it sangano reRuwadzano (women’s conference) at church, in the community or in their business efforts that are meant to feed the whole family?This relationship between man and woman, as l have noticed in my short life, is heavily skewed in one direction and your guess is as good as mine as to direction that is.Somehow, it is always an after thought to realise that men and women genuinely need each other and cannot function as islands.

“There are roles we can’t play without you, gentlemen,” acknowledged First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe in her keynote address at the NamZim Newspapers Women in Leadership Conference at the Harare International Conference Centre on Friday.
This gentle reminder was directed to the handful of men who were in attendance at the conference that saw women from across the Southern Africa region converging in Harare to share knowledge and strengthen each other in their individual and collective business pursuits.

And let me hasten to say that a large portion of the very few men who were in attendance at the conference were on duty, most of them hidden behind cameras and covering the event — not participating in it.
Had it not been for that, only God knows if any male being would have found his way to the HICC that day.
The moment that anything is labelled a “women’s” something or the other, it becomes just that: a women’s event.
There is no room for men. The men do not want room there. The men are sometimes actually happy that the women will be preoccupied elsewhere and they can go about their own business without phone calls or WhatsApp messages from their better halves.
And the women, well many of them are happy that the menfolk are not around.
They will stand in turn and narrate how they are the victims of a patriarchal society that does little to favour women, and then some of them will console each other with insipid talk about make-up, hairstyles, manicure, shoes, handbags and shopping. Sounds pathetic, doesn’t it, this stereotype?

But not all women’s conferences are like that. Indeed, many strive to add value to individuals and groups, and those in attendance leave the venue feeling enriched with new ideas and new networks.
Friday’s event in Harare, for example, saw entrepreneurial women from across the Southern Africa Development Community coming together to share the stories of their success for the benefit of others.
The successes of the women who addressed the delegates probably had more to do with their business savvy and experience than their sex.
The women who spoke at the NamZim Newspapers Women in Leadership Conference — the second such regional event after the inaugural one in Windhoek, Namibia last year — are leaders in their respective fields and gave beneficial advice to women and men alike on the challenges being faced in business.

There was absolutely no need to look at the panelists with gender lenses. These were not just women. These were businesspeople from whom we can all learn much.
However, while the number of men is almost always small at such events, there are always a few open-minded ones who show up, perhaps because they have since realised that being in the presence of so much progesterone will not diminish their testosterone after all.

In fact, the men who came for the NamZim Newspapers Women in Leadership Conference will tell you that they reaped big from being there and learning and sharing.
And remember, being the only man in the room can actually be pretty helpful for networking. It is a lot easier to remember that one guy who was amongst a 100 women than it is to remember that other one who was wearing the grey suit, mixed in with all the other guys wearing the same boring grey.

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