Not The Normal Network
Earlier this month, The REP joined forces with the University of Birmingham to host an event specifically for women entitled, Not The Normal Network. Held at The REP, it brought together women from the arts and corporate worlds for a morning of discussion, sharing and even a bit of acting.
So far, so normal, you might be thinking. However, the aim of the event was primarily to look at networking for women but not as you know it. In fact, the event was a far cry from the typical and often very uninspiring networking events aimed at women that normally feature drinks, canapés (and on occasion beauty therapies) in venues that are often highly unsuitable, too busy and too noisy. This event wanted to address the fact that these events are not necessarily what women want and are not beneficial in terms of achieving business aims.
Not The Normal Network allowed a very open and honest discussion between a mix of sectors and ages about the barriers and challenges women face. Guests such as Liz James of Berwick Partners and artist Rosie Kay, who runs her own dance company, shared their experiences and talked about their most successful partnerships and what made them so pivotal.
It's quite rare for freelance artists and practitioners and women from the corporate community to attend the same events. Though they might work in different worlds the challenges are often the same. Also, women in the arts perhaps don't see themselves as 'networkers', when in fact they definitely are.
At the end of the event everyone was encouraged to get up on their feet take part in some exercises used by actors in rehearsals. The REP's Associate Director, Tessa Walker led this session focussing on 'actioning' which allowed the women to think about what they wanted to achieve with their words and how they wanted to influence others by what they say.
Not The Normal Network was intended as a catalyst for future activities, in particular The REP's ambition to establish an innovative new women's network. It was held as part of the Economic and Social Research Council's Festival of Social Science 2017 and formed part of a research project being carried out by Professor Kiran Trehan and Dr Holly Birkett at the University of Birmingham.
The final words of wisdom came from REP Chair and successful business leader, Angela Maxwell who said: “Doing things differently works. Different sectors, different ages and different experiences result in new contacts and new friends.”