Can collaboration and networking groups go too far? - The Orca

Can collaboration and networking groups go too far?


Ada Slivinski: There’s a fine line between helping others, and respecting your own time – even for the noblest of causes.

In the job search, we’re often told it’s not what you know, but who you know. So it’s no surprise that over the past five years, women’s networking groups with the mantras “Women Supporting Women” and “Collaboration Over Competition” have sprung up and gained traction.

In many ways, it makes sense. Recent research in Harvard Business Review found that the most successful have both a close circle of female friends, and are central in a hub of broader groups. For men, the close circle was essentially non-existent as a factor for promotion. Networking groups aim to provide more opportunities for these relationships to form amongst women in the business world.

There is a side effect, though: they often leave young women feeling burdened to help others in business before they take strides themselves. Sometimes, the word “collaborate” or the colloquial “collab” can start to become an ask for others to offer their goods or services for free – in order to help someone else make money.

When a friend started a coworking space in Gastown, offers for “collabs” started immediately rolling in: would she offer rental space for events or private desks for free, in exchange for non-descript promotion.

Almost every photographer I know has been asked to shoot and edit for free to help other business owners bank imagery of their products to help bring in sales, but rarely is there any type of kickback or commission.

Many women in business spend so much time worrying about being liked, it could be why our levels of burnout are so high.

The lines of business networking and friendship can get blurry and the result can be lost focus.

It’s hard to run a successful business when with every “collaborative” conversation your vision of who you are and who you’re for gets a little muddier. If you try to be for everyone and tailor your business and offering in order to appease the mob, you’ll miss out on better-suited opportunities.

According to VISA’s second annual State of Female Entrepreneurship report, “The global rate of female entrepreneurship has been increasing more quickly than that of male entrepreneurs, with more than 250 million women around the world engaged in entrepreneurship.”

We aren’t talking about a small group anymore. “Within the small and medium-sized business world, women-owned businesses make up nearly half the U.S. market, employing millions and generating trillions in sales each year.” Using gender as the sole rationale for supporting every single one of those women doesn’t always makes sense.

In my experience, women are constantly burdened by the need to be liked, and be seen as generous and supporting. Sometimes that comes at the detriment of our own growth.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at