Friends with Business Benefits

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I’m in no fewer than eight groups of women that connect at least semi-regularly. I wouldn’t say “women’s groups” exactly, though there are those too.

Some groups were created around a shared vision, like amplifying authors, resharing the work of fellow creators, or helping entrepreneurs get over the next hurdle. Some groups were created to support a specific goal like working toward a cause or building an email list. And there are the groups that I like to think of as Friends with Business Benefits.

These are my favorite.

They’re tiny groups — three or four or six friends — who also happen to be interested in supporting each other’s professional goals.

We connect every so often on Zoom, or if we’re lucky, in person over coffee or cocktails, mainly to say, “What can I do for you right now?)

Because these conversations all take place in the Cone of Silence (there’s a nice fat GenX reference for you) here’s what I can tell you about what happens:

We mine our networks for support (does anyone know a great web designer who…?). We make professional connections (Who has a contact at…?). We work through ethical issues (okay, so AI is helpful but…?). We set goals and deadlines. We commit to accomplishing one thing before the next meeting. And we have a safe environment to bring up all kinds of questions we’d prefer not to ask about in public.

At minimum, we can provide a fresh perspective when someone talks about feeling “stuck” working their way toward the next chapter, or just, you know, working their way toward getting through another day.

I can tell you this much without betraying any confidence: A lot of women need extra support right now.

A lot.

So many.

Even and especially the women you can’t ever imagine ever struggling in any way — the ones running successful businesses, the ones who seem to be on every podcast you listen to, the ones who never have to blur their Zoom backgrounds, the ones who get all the good party invitations, the ones with (real) blue checks, the ones who take pictures with famous people.

I’ve rarely had a call or meeting over the past few years with a group of powerful, incredible, high-performing Friends with Business Benefits, that hasn’t involved one or more of us bursting into tears.

(And then, apologizing.)

(And then someone else saying, “Don’t you dare apologize!”)

It’s cathartic.

It’s fucking amazing actually.

Women feel like we do everything. We have talked about that forever, it seems. But at the same time, we feel everything too.

The needs of our colleagues. The needs of our partners. The struggles of aging family members and aging children. The societal issues that we process while rinsing rice. The pain and the grief around the globe. The intensity of a big political year. The balance between what we love doing and what we must do. The guilt of taking time for ourselves. The pressure to produce. The pressure to succeed.

I’m guessing Greta Gerwig wrote it best at this point, and forgive me if you already have it committed to memory.

You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.

So yeah.


Whether you’re a scientist or a poet, a logo designer or a science teacher, a seasoned CEO, or a college student figuring out how to pad your first resume for your first job — get yourself a group of Friends with Business Benefits.

I think all of us need a professional group where no one will tell you that you’re not supposed to bring up your childcare crisis while talking about speaker fees. No one will tell you that venting about the mental load is unprofessional. No one will ever say you shouldn’t cry in a conversation about time management tips and virtual assistants.

We contain multitudes.

Surround yourself with the right women.

We will pass you a tissue while offering you tax advice — and never think the less of you for needing either.

Liz Gumbinner is a Brooklyn-based writer, award-winning ad agency creative director, and OG mom blogger who was called “funny some of the time” by an enthusiastic anonymous commenter. This was originally posted on her Substack “I’m Walking Here!,” where she covers culture, media, politics, and parenting.

Banner photo: Zoe on Unsplash.

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