Whether it’s a fresh approach to wellbeing or the opportunity to utilize an inspiring workspace, women are finding more and more reasons to create rooms of their own
In 1868, a popular American newspaper columnist called Fanny Fern was turned away from an all-male New York Press Club dinner honoring Charles Dickens. Fern explained that she was invited to listen to the speeches “through the crack of a door”. One month later, Fern co-founded America’s first professional women’s club, Sorosis, along with children’s author Josephine Pollard. Its objective was to further the educational and social activities of women by bringing representative women of accomplishment in art, literature, science and kindred pursuits together. It was pioneering, at a time when the term ‘glass ceiling’ was unheard of and the concept of women networking to promote their careers was outlandish, especially within the smoke-filled lounges of all the world’s private men’s clubs. In the once arcane world of private members clubs, women are now finding a place that listens and responds to their needs and life goals. Rather than being ‘put’ in their place by the strict men-only policy of traditional members clubs, women are instead carving out and celebrating their own niche, and smashing the proverbial glass ceiling.
Verity – Toronto, Canada
While the idea of women-only members clubs isn’t new, a new wave of modern interpretations has been emerging with increasing frequency over the past 10 years, driven by the reality that an increasing number of high-flying women are balancing jobs, motherhood and everyday life. “Women are seeking these clubs because we want to be with each other,” says Mary Aitken, founder of Verity —a 57,000-sq-ft women-only members club in Toronto. “If we don’t band together a bit, we’re never going to break that glass ceiling.” A former investment banker, Aitken founded the Canadian club in 2004 with the aim of offering its 800 time-poor members—consisting of a broad mix of award-winning entrepreneurs, corporate heavyweights, creative artisans and top legal minds—a place to network and find solutions to personal challenges. “It’s about the sharing and exchange of knowledge and fun,” says Aitken, “and having an oasis and retreat where women can get away from work and home—it’s a third home.”
The Wing – New York, United States
When Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan opened The Wing, the much-anticipated women’s club in New York, its October introduction came at a timely moment when a woman was on the verge of clinching the US presidency. Now that we know it wasn’t to be, The Wing feels even more important as a place where women can work and collaborate. Located in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District of Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood, The Wing is outfitted with open-plan workspace, meeting rooms, a phone booth, an extensive all-female library, a café with food, wine and cocktails made by women, a beauty room and showers, and all, say Gelman and Kassan, designed with the sole purpose of making women’s lives easier. “When the club movement began, women sought education and to cultivate identities outside of the home,” explain Gelman and Kassan, “but as times changed, so did the priorities of club women. Each new generation of women has found power in community, and together their determination has made the world they live in a better, more inclusive place.”
Grace Belgravia – London, United Kingdom
Then, looking inwards rather than out, there’s the wellbeing approach. London club Grace Belgravia is built on the philosophy that to thrive in society today, women need to invest in their greatest asset: their health. Members here enjoy a private medical clinic with an emphasis on preventative medicine and aging well, a spa and a restaurant that offers fresh, seasonal, alkalizing dishes designed to promote a healthy gut. The health of the mind matters too, and is catered to by way of a wide range of cultural occasions, from art exhibitions to supper clubs, panel events to pop-ups. “There’s been a paradigm shift, which means that increasingly women are seeking out other women’s company,” says Grace Belgravia CEO Kate Percival. “Women have become less competitive with each other, more embracing, and there appears to be a sorority that is stronger than it’s ever been. We are catering to that unique bond between women and fostering deeper connections. We see stressed businesswomen coming here and notice even, after a short time, that the shoulders go down and life takes on a different perspective.”