Most websites designed “for women” tend to be dire, falling into the trap of assuming that it’s possible to meaningfully target something at half the population, and assuming the way to do that is through shoes, shopping and pink things. Damsels In Success is not one of those sites, and on a first try seems like it has a lot to offer.
It is a social networking site for women, but it is aimed squarely at professionals. It is very similar to LinkedIn, which is an extremely popular business networking tool.
Damsels is still in Beta, and it has some issues to resolve: first up, you can’t just enter your Gmail or Yahoo! email address and password, and quickly see if any of your friends or contacts are already using the service. Secondly, you don’t get the opportunity to send a personal invitation to your contacts – something LinkedIn does very well. It wants you to upload your resume, whereas LinkedIn is your resume.
But it has some real advantages as well. First up, it’s specifically for women, and whereas LinkedIn just encourages you to connect with folks you already know and ask for specific introductions via your trusted contacts, Damsels lets you approach anyone. This has real potential, in terms of creating an alternative to the Old Boys’ network.
But the best bit is this: the site actively engages with the fact that women face discrimination in the workplace. For example, on LinkedIn you can choose to say you’re available for career opportunities, new ventures, reference requests, job enquiries, etc. On Damsels you can say you’re available to discuss “gender issues in the workplace”, “returning to work after pregnancy”, “work/life balance”, “being a professional woman” and “mentoring” – as well as stock networking things such as opportunities at your current workplace.
In the “stories” section of the website, Damsels asks users to “tell us your glass ceiling story” about discrimination and sexual harassment.
It even has an advice section. The lead question at the moment involves a woman who moved in with her boyfriend, only for him to start moaning about the time she spends working on her own business.
OK, this site is unlikely to address the issues faced by working class women, and it seems to be a bit US-centric. It also faces tough competition in LinkedIn: when I was putting together my profile, I actually found myself referring to my LinkedIn profile as it is much more up to date than my CV. But, if it gets enough momentum, it could prove a useful and powerful force for bringing women together to tackle some of these workplace issues.