A Powerful Secret Weapon Is Leveling the Playing Field for Women at Work

Photo: Getty Images/CaiaimageTom Merton
When I think about the moment I passed the threshold between aspiring journalist and journalist (no qualifier!), I realize that without the help of a handful of kickass women, I wouldn't be writing this right now. As Inc. Magazine recently acknowledged, fostering an inner circle that acts as a "whisper network" for opportunity, salary comparisons, and guidance is crucial to supercharging your career.

As a sophomore in college, in 2015, I interned with Dreamers // Doers, a community of entrepreneurial women who band together both online and IRL to support one another in their self-designed ventures. These women are authors, graphic designers, software engineers, and entrepreneurs, and more. The community thrives with more than 700 participants in invite-only Facebook groups and upward of 20,000 members in two groups that anyone can join.

People who say that landing a job is all about "who you know" aren't wrong; it really, really helps to have a solid connection.

I found the position that would ultimately change my life while scrolling absentmindedly through Dreamers // Doers: Jobs + Gigs, one of the company's open-access groups. In retrospect, this was my "big break." A word-thirsty writer, I paused on a job listing emblazoned with three words: "paid editorial internship." The description read, "Seeking a college-aged writer to cover wellness 15 hours per week," and you better believe that I applied faster than you can say Zuckerberg.

The application was just the first step. People who say that landing a job in New York is all about "who you know" aren't wrong; it really, really helps to have a solid connection. Mine was the ladies of Dreamers // Doers, my greatest advocates. A woman I met during college at another part-time job (a retail gig I also found through the job-focused Facebook group) held a full-time position at the media company hiring the editorial intern. Both she and the founder of Dreamers // Doers, Gesche Haas, offered me an invaluable recommendation. And I got the job. Although, I should really say "we got the job," because that's what it felt like. Less than a year later, I took responsibility for the site's editorial operations. Learning how to network differently set me up for my current role as news writer at Well+Good (my dream job, everyone!).

While it's agreed before joining that discussions inside the Facebook groups are to remain confidential, I can tell you that it's essentially one big love nest of female trailblazers who challenge, support, and cheerlead. And that's exactly what Haas—and other women who facilitate whisper networks—have in mind.

"Whisper networks are a powerful secret weapon that is leveling the playing field." —Gesche Haas, founder of Dreamers // Doers

"Whisper networks like Dreamers // Doers provide women with a game-changing competitive edge as a direct result of turning other fellow women into powerful conspirators and confidants. They are different from traditional networking groups because of the implicit trust and safe spaces that are created within them," says Dreamers // Doers founder Gesche Haas. The intimacy of these gatherings skips the small talk and invites members to tell stripped down versions of their current situations. "I hear plenty of success stories every day—from women finding investors, employees, or co-founders for their companies, to women supporting each other through infertility challenges," Haas says. "After one of our members lost her apartment in a fire, others rallied to support her through the transition. We've had women share stories of past domestic abuse in our network for the first time, given the trust and safe space found within our community."

Even a cursory look at women's experiences in the workplace is more than enough to justify the need for such a support system in modern America. Studies suggest that only one in eight women negotiate their salary and that women frequently require more experience than men to get promoted. Another study, conducted in 2016, found that 75 percent of women who spoke out against sexual harassment at work faced retribution.

To excel at the office, women need both logistical and emotional support. Whisper networks provide the perfect arena for the two to collide. "Many of our members ascribe a crucial part of their professional success to the community, citing that the mutual support and highly curated network allows them to do anything they want to achieve," says Haas. "Whisper networks are a powerful secret weapon that is leveling the playing field."

If you're thinking about turning your side-hustle into your full-time gig, here's how to know it's time. And if you're just starting your entrepreneurial journey, you'll find inspiration these women entrepreneurs

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