Networking groups for women in business are springing up all over Philadelphia, but which ones are right for you?

Some groups in Philly are long-standing, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs, Ellevate, and the Greater Northeast Chamber of Commerce, while others were created just in the last few months and cater to start-up business owners, such as Brazen, FemCity, Women-Owned Law, and the Walnut Club.

"I'm an uber-networker, but women don't need to be aggressive networkers to derive benefits," said Amy Turnquist, president of the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association chapter in Philadelphia, which has close to 1,000 members.

"I derive both professional and personal benefits from my involvement with HBA and with other organizations, so I'm all-in," Turnquist added. She recently started a job in sales for eHealthcare Solutions, and met the founder and CEO through relationships developed through HBA. As a consultant, she found several clients through HBA, as well.

But do women's networking groups drive bigger sales and increase your business? HerCorner says the group's focus is to be an accelerator for women who want to "scale up" their businesses. HerCorner clients average $350,000 in annual revenues and must be in business for at least a year. The accelerator costs $700 a month for six months, and coaching sessions are $400 a month.

HerCorner partners with other women's groups in Philly for a monthly coffee networking session, a way to sample four different outfits: FemCity Philadelphia, Ellevate, the Walnut Club, and Women-Owned Law, all at the same event. The next joint coffee klatch is in June. For more information, visit the FemCity website: https://www.femcity.com/organizer/femcity-philadelphia.

Nora Barry belongs to many women's networking groups in Center City, and was checking out the new chapter of Brazen last month. The managing partner at Bridgeview Media, Barry belongs to NAWBO and the Walnut Club, and previously was a member of the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs and Ellevate, which tends to attract more corporate and finance types.

"I love NAWBO. The women really network and support other women, and they run great programs," said Barry.

Judi Lawrence, owner of Center City Notary, belongs to the Center City Proprietor's Association and is investigating the Society of Professional Women, part of the Main Line Chamber of Commerce, and Brazen's new Philly chapter, as well as the Philadelphia Area Concierge Association, whose members are connected with hotel, corporate, and residential concierges at local properties.

"I like to check out as many as I can," Lawrence said. Founded in St. Louis, Brazen Global launched a chapter here in May. It's a membership organization designed to help women entrepreneurs increase their businesses and foster growth, said chapter director Bonnie Bogle.

Need to raise cash? Capital-raising for women got a boost here in Philly recently, with start-up forum Women Raising Capital, a response to the heavily male Angel Venture Forum.

Fran Griesing, a lawyer and founder of a women-owned law firm in Center City, said she recently joined Women-Owned Law, with a mission to support female entrepreneurs in the law through educational programming. Founded by Nicole Galli — an intellectual property lawyer — Women-Owned Law is now an international group, and Griesing chairs its advisory board.

"It's key for women to join networks, because we depend on them for gender-pay parity. That's how you stay informed about what your value is, salary wise," by talking with peers, said Griesing. She made these remarks in an address to the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association's Philadelphia chapter meeting on May 22 at the Concord Country Club in West Chester.

New networking groups for women, like Brazen, FemCity, Women Owned Law, and the Walnut Club are springing up around Philadelphia. Here, Fran Griesing addresses HBA Philadelphia chapter (Credit: Blake Nutis)
Blake Nutis
New networking groups for women, like Brazen, FemCity, Women Owned Law, and the Walnut Club are springing up around Philadelphia. Here, Fran Griesing addresses HBA Philadelphia chapter (Credit: Blake Nutis)

Plus, using your network can help women ask for and win higher pay or even just pay equity, she noted.

Take a warning from Hollywood: Actress Michelle Williams didn't ask for more money when she reshot a movie with Ridley Scott; meanwhile, her costar Mark Wahlberg reshot the same film and was paid $1.5 million.

"He had the provison in his initial contract and she didn't — and they had the same talent agency," Griesing told the HBA chapter. "Ask for what you're worth. It's just business. It's not personal."

Griesing suggests the following when asking for a raise: Compare similar job postings for a salary range; write down all the awards and other kudos you've received, including big projects, clients you've brought in, and experience, to take with you to the meeting. Also, keep a "job journal" at home on paper, keep track of all the positive feedback and emails you receive. Print them out and keep in your job journal, she adds.

You don't have to run around town and network for its own sake, says Turnquist, the HBA president. Instead, she suggests the following for women looking to network:

  • Start small. Pick one event that looks interesting or ask a friend to bring you with her/him to an event that they think might be valuable for you.
  • Find your fit. Try a few different organizations and a few different event formats to find your personal fit.
  • Sign up for a "job" with the group. Once you find a group where you feel comfortable and start to make interesting connections, sign up to join or lead a committee. Become a volunteer. This is where true value is realized, where you cultivate a deeper network, relationships, and develop or practice transferable skills.
  • Network outside your zone. Don't be afraid to explore opportunities to network with professionals outside of your industry. These connections can expand your professional view and your expertise beyond your current scope.