Forget the MCC: the women's clubs that really are exclusive

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IT WAS a decision that surprised no one - least of all the women. For the second time in its 211-year history, the Marylebone Cricket Club has voted to exclude them.

Despite the fact that members voted in favour of changing the rule, the 55.7 per cent vote fell short of the two-thirds majority required and the ban will stay - at least for the time being.

But do women care? The number of organisations for them has mushroomed in recent years and women in almost every field can join their own exclusive clubs.

They can do their own networking without having to feel excluded from whispered conversations over a glass of port in the old boys' club and most are agreed that they have no desire to join a group of men in a fusty oak-panelled room for idle conversation.

Linda Christmas, deputy chair of Women in Journalism, said women in many professions had felt the need to set up their own clubs to combat inequality in the workplace but once the organisation was up and running, women were much better at achieving their aims than men.

"The perception of men's clubs is rather stolid and women's organisations tend to be younger and more vibrant," she said.

"It can be very frustrating to keep banging your head against the wall trying to get anywhere in the old boys' club and ultimately it is a waste of energy.

"But when women get together they are much more efficient than men who tend to sit and talk about things and then expect some mythical person to go and do it all.

"In a women's club they will decide what they want to achieve and go out and do it. Women are far more inclusive."

This is a view echoed by the Secretary of the University Women's Club, who is a man.

John Robson, who has run the club for almost five years but is not a member and has no rights, said women were much more friendly.

"Years ago I ran a men's club and it was very different," he said.

"The members here are much more friendly and approachable.

"There is also a lot more going on than in the average men's club where they might have one game of backgammon a year and spend the rest of the time fermenting in the bar. There is no doubt that women are more purposeful.

"Although our club is a retreat and we like members to think of it as their London home, we also organise events and the committee is working to encourage young people in music and painting.

"But they use the club to network as well as to relax."

Jo Darbyshire, president of the Soroptimists, a philanthropic organisation for professional women, said the organisation was used not only to network but also for social occasions.

"Our members meet twice a month and there is a lot of networking but I feel it is much purer than when a group of men get together in a club," she said.

"Women are much more capable of supporting each other than men and I think they work together for the good of everyone and not just for personal advantage."

But Ylva French, the managing director of Women in Communications, which operates as an umbrella organisation for several women's clubs, said it was proof of the continuing inequality that such organisations were needed. "There is still a need for solidarity among women and that is why there are so many clubs," she said.

"They were set up as a reaction against the number of men's clubs but also because women wanted to achieve something while having a good time and the men just want to have a good time."