My office looks out onto the entrance of my firm. I see who comes and goes and often get a friendly wave as someone comes up the walk. Occasionally, I see a group of men heading out to lunch and I think, “why are there no women in that group?” For a split second, I may even feel slighted that I wasn’t invited.
I’m not alone in this. I’ve heard from other women or seen discussions on blogs how women are sometimes excluded from the informal networks that are so important to succeeding in our professions. We cannot control whether we are invited to lunch, but we can control our response. For that split second when I feel slighted, I sometimes remember to ask, “why didn’t I invite them to lunch?” I know that they didn’t intend to exclude me. They work in a different group, they interact more often – it’s natural to just say, “let’s grab lunch” to those around you.
So I decided to try an experiment. I would take the initiative. I would invite others to lunch and not wait for them to invite me. And, you know what? They came. It was fun. We got to know each other better. And, now, they think to invite me to lunch as well. They have even sought me out to help with projects because they now know me better.
But, you say, the guys always want to talk about sports and I’m not interested in that. Do I have to fake my way through a sports conversation just to join key networks at work? Not necessarily. There is always a middle ground – find out what it is. What are your shared interests? Kids? Pets? Food? Wine? Travel? Hiking? The list is endless. We’re women. We’re good at finding out what people are interested in. And there is usually more than just one thing. We can find something in common. It just takes some effort.
Our Challenge: take the initiative. Invite the guys out to lunch. Find out those common interests. And keep inviting them. It will be worth it.