The rise of women-only clubs around the world

Discover the networking spaces where new captains of industry are thriving.

Female-led professional networking groups are popping up around the world. Image credit: miodrag ignjatovic/iStock
Female-led professional networking groups are popping up around the world. Image credit: miodrag ignjatovic/iStock

A wealth of networking spaces are popping up in cities throughout Europe and the U.S. with a goal to inspire female entrepreneurs. 

A beautiful home base

New York entrepreneurs Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan created The Wing, a coworking space and club set within a penthouse in the Ladies Mile Historic District, New York, in 2016. 

Gelman, a former press aide for Hillary Clinton, told Fast Company she was often running between meetings and decided she needed a home base in the city.

“We saw the potential for not only making women’s daily lives easier but also having it be a hub for community and connection between women,” Gelman said.

Over the past two years, the pair have raised millions of dollars, with backers such as tennis star Serena Wiliams and former presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett. With these funds, the plan is to expand further afield from the existing eight locations across the U.S.

With the recent opening of its first international outpost in London, it’s clear this company is ready to take flight. The five-story Oxford Circus building hosts Michelin-star chef Skye Gyngell and provides Peloton bikes for its members.

The Allbright spaces are beautifully decorated. Image credit: ilona titova/iStock
The Allbright spaces are beautifully decorated. Image credit: ilona titova/iStock

Join the club

The first female U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Allbright once said there was a “special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” This statement is at the heart of The AllBright, a dedicated space for women to network, built by former Hearst magazine CEO Anna Jones and serial entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow.

The pair opened their first space in Bloomsbury, London on International Women’s Day in 2018. Last year, they opened a club in Mayfair as well as an international outpost in Melrose Place, Los Angeles. All three networking spaces have the social power of Soho House and the coworking space of WeWork.

At the time, the entrepreneurs were already running the AllBright Fund and Academy, an online business network designed to help women bring their business ideas to fruition. Jones said they wanted to provide more for their members, where they could network, unwind, and feel inspired. 

“AllBright Member’s Clubs are designed by women for women. They are designed to be beautiful homes from home; welcoming, warm, stylish, and comfortable,” Jones said. 

The AllBright team also gives its members the chance to network around the world, with AllBright Connect, an app that enables members to connect globally.

A ‘modern union for working women and allies’

Seattle-based coworking space The Riveter decided from the start that men should be part of the picture. While the co-working space is run by women for women, it welcomes male members. 

Founder and ex-corporate lawyer Amy Nelson said she knew she couldn’t do her job without working with men and didn’t want to block them out of the workspace. But, after becoming pregnant and seeing barriers put in her way, she also knew that she couldn’t flourish in a community created by them. 

The new mum decided to launch her own law business and thought a coworking space would be an exciting space to work from. However, Nelson said the co-working spaces she saw did little to inspire her and looked more like frat houses.

Many of these clubs feature female speakers to help inspire its members. Image credit: sanjeri/iStock
Many of these clubs feature female speakers to help inspire their members. Image credit: sanjeri/iStock

The former member of President Obama’s National Finance Committee ditched the law business idea and decided to launch a space that could inspire and orientate with women’s needs instead.

“I decided to start my own business, The Riveter, a modern union for working women and allies,” Nelson said.

“I built what I needed for myself – a place to find community, content, resources, and work and gathering spaces, all focused on equity of opportunity for all working women.”

The Riveter puts women at the center of its plans – from providing spaces for mothers to offering inspiration by inviting speakers such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

“The first thing we thought about when designing The Riveter is what women need,” Nelson said.

“[We view it] as a departure from workspaces in America that have long been designed by men, for men.”

The Riveter format has been extremely successful. Its growth has outpaced WeWork’s first years and it’s already attracted $15 million in venture capital funding. And Nelson and her team are thinking big – she told business news site Quartz they plan to have 100 clubs by 2022. 

Nelson also took The Riveter on the road in November 2019 with its first summit, held in New York at the Highline Stages. Five hundred people listened to talks by luminaries and attended workshops focused on the wage gap, leadership, and rebranding motherhood at work. 

“We built The Riveter Summit to equip women — and all who think the American workplace can, and should, look different — with the inspiration, information, and tools to drive progress forward,” Nelson said.


Claire Turrell

Freelance journalist Claire Turrell has lived and worked in London, Dubai, and Singapore. When she’s not busy writing, she is riding motorbikes off-road in Cambodia, diving in Oman or learning Muay Thai in Thailand.