Women’s clubs react to Garrick Club choosing to accept women for the first time

It is a ‘quite overdue’ step, according to the Trouble Club director Ellie Newton

Canqi Li
Wednesday 08 May 2024 19:58 BST
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Viv Paxinos of the Allbright women’s club said “it’s a victory for equality and a step in the right direction”
Viv Paxinos of the Allbright women’s club said “it’s a victory for equality and a step in the right direction” (Getty Images)

Two women’s private members’ clubs have voiced their opinions on the all-male Garrick Club deciding to accept female members for the first time in its 193-year history.

Following a two-hour debate in Covent Garden, 60 per cent of members of the London gentlemen’s club voted for the acceptance of women members.

Private members’ clubs were historically exclusive hubs for wealthy aristocratic men to socialise. Mostly located in London, the first gentlemen’s clubs were founded in the late 17th century.

Starting from the late 19th century, women’s private members’ clubs like the University Women’s Club and the Alexandra Club also emerged.

Despite their historical exclusion of women, most gentlemen’s clubs now allow female members to enrol, but a select few still exclude candidates based on gender.

Ellie Newton, director of the women’s Trouble Club, said her club “absolutely welcomes” the Garrick Club’s new decision.

After a two-hour debate, most members of the Garrick Club reportedly voted for club accepting women members for the first time.
After a two-hour debate, most members of the Garrick Club reportedly voted for club accepting women members for the first time. (PA Archive)

“It’s a really important step, and it’s probably quite overdue,” she told The Independent.

Ms Newton added: “Given how much power men have held in the last few hundred years, male clubs where only men can become members can be very dangerous.”

Founded in 2014 by ex-Financial Times journalist Joy Lo Dico, the Trouble Club is one of the most popular private members’ clubs in London, offering events on topics ranging from science and politics to literature and culture each month for more than a thousand members.

While targeting women speakers, the Trouble Club is not a women-only club.

“We want to make sure there are as many different voices in our room as possible,” Ms Newton said, believing that private members’ clubs should be open to all genders.

“It’s really important that clubs focus more on inclusivity, especially towards women, given what we’ve fought over the last few hundred years,” she commented.

According to Viv Paxinos, chief executive of the Allbright women’s club, it is important for women-only spaces to exist.

“Women go through different challenges than men do in the workplace,” she told The Independent. “Creating a safe space for them to talk about those challenges is really important.”

Hosting about 1,300 members on site and an audience of 10.3 million, Allbright describes itself as an ecosystem to advance women in the workplace, with membership fees ranging from £1,980 to £6,840 a year.

Although an average of 25 per cent of its visitors are men, the club only has members who identify as women.

“Until workplace equality data is better, spaces like Allbright need to be present,” Ms Paxinos added. “The ethos of why we exist is not the same.”

Also welcoming the Garrick Club’s new decision, Ms Paxinos believes all-male gentlemen’s clubs are “part of the reason why there are gender inequality issues”. She remarked: “Not including women is what drives us to seek and create our own spaces.”

Ms Paxinos added: “It’s a victory for equality and a step in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to achieve equality across our society.”

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