Can business and pleasure ever mix?
On Tuesday night, at the inaugural British Business Association Cambodia’s Women’s Networking Event, they certainly did.
In the glamorous surroundings of Chinese House, located on the banks of the Tonle Sap, nearly a hundred women turned out to make new connections and to enjoy the company of friends and colleagues.
Abigail Gilbert, the association’s executive director, decided to organise the event when she spotted a gap in the in Phnom Penh social scene; there were no opportunities for a group of likeminded professional women to meet and socialise.
“Women converse differently, network differently and build relationships differently. That’s why we wanted to create an event where women have the space to be comfortable and to do things in our own way,” she explained.
China House, well-renowned for its excellent kitchen, had created delicious platters of canapés, which were delivered by an endless file of friendly waiters.
Mouth-watering shots of cold gazpacho, tiny spring rolls and citrussy ceviche were the perfect accompaniment to the delicious, crisp white wine that was flowing at the bar.
During the evening there was an exclusive fashion show where Jasmine Boutique showcased a sneak preview of its new label.
There was plenty of laughter and good conversation; the event’s emphasis is on meeting new people and it was easy to get chatting at the busy bar.
The event was open to non-members as well as paid-up associates and although it was organised by the British Business Association, the Brits were by no means a majority.
Gilbert says that she wanted to get as many women as possible involved in order to demonstrate how easy and enjoyable it can be to network in Phnom Penh.
Gilbert tells me that there is no sector or industry that predominates within their organisation, “we have members who work in the third sector, finance, investment, recruitment and construction”, and her assertion is definitely borne out by the conversations around the room.
Sina, from Germany, works at an NGO and heard about the event through word of mouth.
As a communications professional, an opportunity to make connections with other professionals from across disciplines is really valuable, she said.
Women from trading companies an real estate were also eager to network.
Gilbert plans to organise three of these events each year, so there won’t be too long to wait until the next get together.