One afternoon in 2016, Laurie Zlotnick, then a technology sales manager in New Jersey, looked up from her work to find several members of her all-male team setting up a mini golf course next to her desk. Zlotnick had no desire to tee off into her wastepaper basket, but she did have an epiphany: Professional women needed their own version of the office golf game.

Soon after, Zlotnick created Fierce Females, a group for professional women in search of inspiration, connection and strategies for succeeding in male-dominated fields.

In the beginning, a handful of women in Zlotnick’s hometown met at local watering holes or private homes. It wasn’t long before word spread, and the group swelled to nearly 100. Sensing she’d tapped into a genuine need, the founder launched a Facebook community where over 1,000 members now swap inspiration, job leads, interview tips and much more. Live get-togethers, hosted by Fierce Females ambassadors, will soon crop up in Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Los Angeles; Raleigh, North Carolina; and San Francisco.

Here, Zlotnick shares some of the surprising ways Fierce Females has jump-started its members’ careers, and why every woman should join a networking group — or better yet, launch her own.

  1. YOU’LL HEAR FROM WOMEN OF OTHER GENERATIONS

    Last spring, we hosted an event called Branding Yourself to Compete in the Millennial Marketplace, the job market that is a largely populated by workers in their 20s and early 30s. Six speakers — from career coaches to stylists to branding experts — talked about how to how to dive into your dream career or refresh your existing one, at any age. We discussed everything from how to streamline your wardrobe to how to reinvent yourself after being out of the workplace to raise kids. It’s amazing what women can learn from one another when we reach across generational divides.

  2. YOU’LL LEARN HOW TO BRAND YOURSELF IN THE MARKETPLACE

    You are your own brand. For women starting their careers, that’s a given. But for some women, the concept of self-branding is new. Many of our 30- and 40-something members will tell you their favorite Fierce Females talk was given by a professional photographer and a social media manager, who shared tips for staying relevant online — starting with how to take a good social media profile picture.

    Before that meeting, we hadn’t really thought about doing a Fierce Females Instagram, but now we post every day to keep our mission on top of people’s minds.

  3. YOU’LL DO GOOD, AND GET A CAREER BOOST DOING IT

    A great networking group should have some career diversity among its members. That way you can create some powerful synergy. Two of our members, a hair and makeup stylist and a professional headshot photographer, recently joined forces to provide styling and headshots for our members. A suggested donation of $25 raised money for Share Your Hair, a nonprofit that provides services for women going through chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. At the end of the evening, we looked good, and we felt good.

  4. YOU’LL GET A FOCUS GROUP FOR HONEST FEEDBACK

    When you put something out on LinkedIn, you’re representing your corporate brand, and you have to be more careful about what you say. A more casual networking group can be a safer space for brainstorming and testing out new ideas. We see our members seeking — and receiving — honest feedback on everything from business logos to interview outfits.

  5. YES, YOU’LL GET JOB LEADS

    This one’s a no-brainer! At Fierce Females, we’re all about sharing connections and leads. One member, a seasoned executive, volunteered to mentor a fellow member’s nonprofit start-up. Within a year, the nonprofit was so successful that they were able to pay for the executive’s ongoing services. In turn, the executive got the confidence she needed to quit her day job and become a successful full-time consultant.

  6. YOU’LL COMBAT SEXISM IN THE WORKPLACE

    At Fierce Females gatherings, we not only get the opportunity to vent in a safe environment about workplace sexism, but also to share strategies for combatting it. It’s also a place where we can simply ask: “This is what happened to me — do you think it’s sexist?” And the group always thinks about the issue constructively. Women can get a bad rap for being catty and backstabbing in the workplace, but when we come together, we can rise above anything.

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