2017 might turn out to be the year of female networks.
Are you part of any organised network, virtual or physical? I wasn’t, at least not actively, until last year when I joined a Swedish Facebook group for women only, Heja Livet. Nowadays, I seem to start every other sentence with “I saw this thing in that female network…”.
When I joined, Heja Livet consisted of 1,500 young women. Today, not even a year later, we are over 24,000 women (you heard me!) sharing our lives with each other. According to Swedish TV channel SVT, Heja Livet is the third biggest Swedish all-female Facebook group.
Why should you be part of a female network?
The idea of Heja Livet is to prove wrong that outdated idea of women not supporting each other. The two founders of the group, Emely Crona Stenberg and Caroline Levy, have a basic requirement for all posts and comments: no hateful or mean content allowed. As Emely an Caroline put it: “Constructive criticism? Sure. Hate? No”.
Recently, something called The Wing started popping up in my Instagram feed. It turned out to be a stylish women-only club in New York, described by the founders as the member’s “sacred space”. While its hefty price tag and never-ending waiting list means that it’s a quite an exclusive club, its core idea captures the beauty of female networks: ”At The Wing, all the rules are written by women”.
Now, this is what I want to talk about.
How about if we leave the men – out?
Why come together in groups just based on the fact that we identify as women? Well, I’m sure we all agree on the fact that men are vital in creating an equal society. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t need a space in our lives where there is no gender inequality, no need for comparison, and where the rules are written by women. I never even realized I was in need of a women-only network, until I became part of one.
What happens in these networks is pure magic. And the beautiful thing is that the magic doesn’t just stay in that one isolated space. No, it follows us out into the real world and reminds us of the fact that there is room here for plenty of bold, smart and beautiful women.
Four key ingredients for a successful network
“But, how does it work? What do you do in that network?” Well, the answer is simple and complex: in the case of Heja Livet, it is a space where thousands of young women share their personal stories about eating disorders, sexism, career changes, burnouts, and heartbreaks. There are apartments, jobs, and mentorships on offer; women looking for running partners, programmers, interview objects, and new friends. No subject is too deep – or too shallow.
- Trust: The founders of Heja Livet state this as the most important ingredient. Trust is the foundation of completely open and honest discussions, and those discussions are the ones that take the network from “fun” to potentially life-changing.
- No judgement: There is no such thing as too loud a girl, too short a skirt, too big a dream. As women, we are judged every day, in numerous ways – these spaces are supposed to give us a breather.
- Diversity: When women of all ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles share a space, our different experiences offers new points of view and possibilities to learn from each other.
- No boundaries: I have told these ladies about dreams I barely discuss with my family. Why? Because there is always someone who shares my dream, has a piece of good advice, knows how to get started… No worried frowns or “get-back-to-Earth” – just help and cheering on the way to make it happen.
Time to get networking!
At the end of last year, I posted an open invitation in Heja Livet for a Persian dinner and travel stories from my honeymoon in Iran. It turned into three dinners with in total 30 people, some of my most memorable evenings of 2016.
My wish for 2017 is that each of you ladies out there finds a network that supports and encourages you to pursue your dreams and tread unknown, scary paths. If there is no such network where you live – maybe it is time that someone created one, and maybe that someone could be you?
Cover photo credit: Sofie Stenmark, http://hejalivet.com