[subtitled: BGSD for “Bitches Get Stuff Done”]

by Marieke Esveld, with input from Briar Lawry

If you’re anything like me, you will have spent your formative years in the workforce fervently attending networking events, hoping to learn something new, meet someone interesting, or, ultimately, land yourself a job in your chosen field, instead of slogging through whatever dull entry-level position you currently held (mine was debt collection).

Beware of Grant

But, if you’re anything like me, you would have found that the only thing these networking events taught you was that none of the interesting people wanted to talk to you. Meanwhile, you spent most of the evening smiling through gritted teeth as you dutifully shook the hand of yet another middle-aged account executive named Grant.

Bitches Get Stuff Done (BGSD) offers the anti-Grant experience. There’s not a suit, balding head or business card holder in sight. It’s an Auckland-based career-focused social networking group for young female professionals – or aspiring professionals because students are welcome!  I established it as a Facebook group in late 2016, to provide a platform for people to share interesting news and articles, ask questions and get advice from one another. Since then, with the help of my friend, former colleague and “Co-Bitch” Briar Lawry, BGSD has grown to a dedicated group of young women who enjoy meeting, learning and sharing with one another.

Meet ups

We meet monthly, to share ideas and discuss challenges, while enjoying good food, drink and each other’s company. I am consistently impressed by the quality of both the discussion and the snacks that appear at our meetups!  Recently, we’ve formatted meetups to have one member shed light on their field of work, giving the others the opportunities to ask questions and learn about an area they may not know well. Briar and I will often then pose questions or topics for discussion to the group, letting the ensuing conversation unfold naturally from there and chip in with further questions if needed.

May’s meetup featured Professionelle’s Mentoring Coordinator Sylvie Thrush Marsh, who’s been a great supporter of BGSD since its inception. Sylvie’s work as a human resources (HR) advisor made her the perfect person for us to trial this format with. HR is an area that affects everyone in the workforce, yet many people know very little about it. It was fascinating to hear the different kinds of questions asked by people in different fields, and I really enjoyed that many people left feeling empowered and informed, having learnt more about their rights and responsibilities as employees and contractors. Feedback on this format has been extremely positive, and next month we hope to have someone representing a different sector do the same.

Fab females

I tend to make friends easily, and the idea for BGSD came about when I realised just how many interesting, engaging and motivated young women I knew. They represented an extremely diverse range of sectors, from communications, which is my field, to media, healthcare, IT and the arts. Inspired by my involvement in Professionelle’s mentoring programme – which has been extremely beneficial in helping me develop the confidence and decision-making skills needed to run a group like this – I have experienced first-hand how enlightening and empowering it can be to connect with other like-minded young women. I wanted to develop a space in which all these fantastic women I knew could meet. Thus BGSD was born.

BGSD is exclusively for young women. Exactly how young, I have yet to decide: at 25, I’m now very aware that none of us is  getting any younger! This is not to be exclusionary, but to provide a space that is openly, comfortably and completely female. While women in the workforce are far better off than they once were, there are still prejudices and barriers we face, with young people often most affected. Young female professionals face different challenges to others, and BGSD offers a space in which people can address those with their peers, in an environment that is both empowering and familiar.

Encouragement and balance

Our meetups are hosted at different members’ houses, although that may need to change as we grow! This offers a comfortable and intimate space, something which I think influences the kinds of conversations that emerge. It’s a step away from corporate-style networking, which can be fairly impersonal, to a warm and encouraging environment, where people connect and make friends, as well as learning from one another.

It’s not all work either. One piece of feedback on our latest session was appreciation for the balance the group found between the personal and the professional, which is something Briar and I have always considered a priority. While our careers are a key focus, they’re not all that make us who we are, so BGSD embraces all aspects of members’ personalities, and focuses on development and learning both at, and outside of, work.

Digital

And because it’s 2017, we have a digital component to our interactions. We have a Facebook group that acts both as a channel to communicate where and when events are happening and as a discussion forum. We understand that not everyone will always be able to attend our meet ups – we all have busy lives, after all – but we want to make sure everyone still gets a chance to tap into the collective consciousness. Members are encouraged to ask questions, share experiences and generally put themselves out there.

Member driven

Now established in my field, I see enormous value in other networking, mentoring and discussion forums, but recognise that many of these are rather top-down. Few, if any, are managed by those they exist to serve. BGSD is an open, collaborative and inclusive project. It’s never going to be solely about what I want, and I’m happy with that. Briar and I manage the group, but we make it known that all members’ opinions are valued, and we’re always keen to hear what people think and how we could improve. I hope that as we grow, more people will contribute, and it will become truly member-driven.

Having fun

Something that I think will encourage BGSD to continue to grow is its inclusivity – members are all different, and we accept each other as we are. I think this is vital to a grassroots project like ours. Not only can we not afford to ask members to fit into a particular mould, but we wouldn’t want to, because where’s the fun in that?

And it is fun. There’s power in numbers, and inspired by the collective intelligence and humour of the group, our meetups adopt an element oF badassery. We are stridently feminist (some of us are louder about this than others), we drink, we swear and we voice our opinions. If you, or any young women you know, would like to join us, we’d love to have you.

Our next meet up is Saturday June 3rd. We’re still finalising the exact time, so if you’d like to join us, or become part of the BGSD Facebook group, contact us on bgsd.group@gmail for more information.

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