I have just read a fascinating extract from Sarah Rutherford’s book, Women’s Work, Men’s Cultures which talks about corporate entertaining. Her research suggests that although both men and women recognise the value of building client relationships, men are twice as likely to take part in corporate entertaining. She found a number of reasons were at play.
Firstly, a large percentage of women avoided after-hours socialising because of their domestic commitments. Interestingly men felt less constrained by this – think how many suited blokes you see on that last train home!!
Secondly, the type of entertainment on offer can be really quite male oriented. Men have been encouraged to bond over sport since they were young and so it is no surprise that a round of golf or lavish corporate days at live sporting events is standard practice in business. While professional women can of course, enjoy a day at the rugby or cricket, the event is generally designed with a male audience in mind. The chances are that men will get more out of the occasion than women. Rutherford then goes on to talk about male-only dining clubs and more disturbingly, the sexual nature of some entertainment – it is just inconceivable that this is still acceptable in some business circles!
This is precisely the world we recognised in 2006 when Beth and I launched Gliterary Lunches. As working mums ourselves, we realised that corporate entertaining needed to happen within the working day not outside it. A long lunch seemed an efficient way to mix business with pleasure, leaving enough time to go back to the office or reach the school gates in time for pick-up.
It was our respective book clubs that gave us the inspiration for the ‘what’. Made up of sparky, sociable women with an appetite for ideas, conversation, wine and good food, we would come away feeling revitalised and stimulated. With great books as the glue and award-winning authors as the hook, here was a way of bringing like-minded women together. Gliterary Lunches was born.
Since launching in 2006, we have hosted over 70 lunches across the UK, with regular visits to Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and now Leeds (launching 7th November) featuring authors such as Lionel Shriver, Sadie Jones, Louise Doughty, Sophie Hannah, Chris Cleave, Victoria Hislop, Fay Weldon, Tony Parsons and Jessie Burton to name just a few.
We stick to a tight programme which includes a midday start for a sparkling drinks reception, followed by a sit-down lunch. Between courses, the two guest writers reveal the inspirations behind their latest books or talk about their writing process and research. The lunch wraps up at 2.45 with coffee and a book signing for those who want to meet the authors. While some guests dash off at this point, many linger longer and enjoy further conversation and networking. Companies can host a table of ten or simply book a couple of places and enjoy some networking on a shared table.
Women might be under-represented in the boardroom and still pushing to redress the gender pay gap, but we can certainly ensure that our corporate entertaining is just as enjoyable! For more information visit www.gliterarylunches.com