Recently the media has been commenting on the emergence of female-only clubs where professionals can meet and network. PA Life investigates the allure of such venues for women who want to get on in business. Grace Belgravia is the newest addition to London clubs flying the flag for females. Its ethos is based upon five ‘graces’ that form a holistic approach towards wellbeing. The spa, treatment rooms and restaurant of the Belgravia retreat are also attached to a GP’s office, so all aspects of your health are covered. Club members include the rich and famous, but since the clientele are of a jet-setting nature, the venue is very peaceful and ideal as an escape from the pressures of the working world.
If you prefer a setting with an illustrious history, the University Women’s Club was founded in 1886 to provide a private meeting space for female graduates. Over the years, membership rules have been expanded to include businesswomen and there are now roughly 900 international members.
Since 1921, the club has had its base at philosopher Bertrand Russell’s former family home and can host an array of events, making use of a garden, several large reception rooms and a restaurant. The club also has 22 bedrooms for members, as well as affiliated partner clubs worldwide.
For those just looking for a space in which to meet or work, a third option is BHive. Lounges in Bristol, Manchester and London provide a quiet daytime workplace for women in business. Regular networking sessions are held for members, or you can attend one of the workshops given by guest speakers, which cover a diverse range of topics from stress management to comedy writing.
All three clubs emphasise the importance of acting as a safe haven for women to congregate; their creation was not born out of any tendency to avoid men, however, but simply the need that females have to meet and feel welcomed by their peers.
Debrah Dhugga is one of a minority of women in her chosen field of hospitality. She currently manages London’s Dukes hotel, where she was able to introduce the Duchess guest room category specifically for female travellers.
“Dukes was very much like a [gentlemen’s] club when I started here,” she comments. Such an observation is hardly surprising, given that the venue apparently inspired the character of James Bond.
To combat this, she researched what women want in a hotel suite. This proved to be more than just a bed, TV and wifi; the Duchess rooms are kitted out with toiletries, magazines and flowers, plus there’s a female member of staff to handle all housekeeping requirements. Nowadays, 30 per cent of guests are female and while standards of service are still traditional, the hotel attracts a younger clientele.
Debrah is also an advocate of women’s clubs and female networking as a way to receive guidance outside of the workplace. She helped found Leading Ladies of London, a group for executives in the hospitality industry, which she describes as “a hub to bring women together” in order to share their ideas. “So many people are time-poor,” she concludes, “so you really need to get something out of the club that you choose.”
Girl power is back, it seems, for a whole new generation.
Private members’ clubs guide
474-476 Fulham Road, London SW6 1BY
Membership fees: £350 per annum
Member benefits: Membership allows access to the club seven days a week plus priority dinner and party bookings at Brasa, the club’s bar and grill. Broadway House has also teamed up with several local businesses to offer members entry to Eight Members Club at Moorgate and Bank, discounts at spas and salons and a Chelsea Club spa and gym package. There are also networking events organised throughout the year.
Facilities: The lounge bar can be used for impromptu business meetings and lunches and the two roof terraces offer stunning settings for afternoon champagne or late-night cocktails.
Background: Housed in a three-storey building in the heart of Fulham, the venue offers a quiet place to relax or do some work away from the hustle and bustle of London.
The Clifton Club
22 The Mall, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4DS
Membership fees: From £195 per annum, plus a joining fee
Member benefits: All members enjoy access to dining facilities, invitations to members’-only events, free wifi throughout the building, in-house events and activities, discounted food and drink at the restaurant, access to more than 60 reciprocal clubs worldwide and exclusive discounts at local businesses. Corporate members also receive discounted rates when booking functions.
Facilities: The club can accommodate up to 12 people boardroom-style in the Bridge room, or up to 200 guests when using the drawing room, dining room and Centenary room.
Background: Established in 1818 as a club where people “of means and leisure could converse and convene regularly”, The Clifton Club is now Bristol’s oldest existing private members’ club. It aims to appeal to professional, influential, entrepreneurial and ‘interesting’ members.
The Jockey Club Rooms
101 High Street, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 8JL
Membership fees: Available on application
Member benefits: Members enjoy access to the club’s facilities, including exclusive use during sacrosanct members’ hours. The club offers a place to relax, hold business meetings or do some work in private.
Facilities: The Jockey Club Rooms offer a wide selection of spaces to suit many needs. The Stewards’ room can accommodate meetings for up to 12 delegates and features soundproofed walls to ensure your meeting won’t be disturbed by voices elsewhere in the building. The private walled gardens can accommodate up to 300 guests in a marquee.
Background: Founded 250 years ago as a social club in London, it has roots in the horse-racing scene. The club later expanded and moved to Newmarket where it is home to an extensive collection of sporting art and racing memorabilia as a result of gifts and bequests from members and their families.
42 Berkeley Square, London W1J 5AW
Membership fees: £300 per annum
Member benefits: Number 42 is an exclusive club for top-tier senior PAs and EAs. Members benefit from monthly salons hosted by prominent figures in business, plus a series of leadership briefings by well-known personalities, such as Loyd Grossman and Lynne Franks. Privileges also include networking cocktail parties, a secure online social and professional forum and an appointment service.
Facilities: Assistants looking for a quiet place to get some work done can book private office spaces complete with a desk and chairs. Larger rooms can accommodate up to 50 people and the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Background: The building was completed in 1745 and the first incumbent was Margaret Newton, a salonnière who made the house a cultural hub for the dissemination of political debate and knowledge.
The Rag Army & Navy Club
36 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5JN
Membership fees: From £180 per annum, plus a joining fee
Member benefits: The Rag is open to non-service men and women and provides a secure setting in which members can network or hold a business meeting. The venue also offers the Business Networking Club, which hosts a series of breakfast seminars to help entrepreneurs grow their network and develop new ideas.
Facilities: In addition to a range of meeting and conference spaces, the property features several bars and restaurants, such as fine dining at the Coffee Room and the relaxed atmosphere of the Ribbon Bar & Terrace.
Background: Established in 1837 to meet the needs of officers, the club got its name when a disgruntled member called it a “Rag and Famish affair”, which was the name of an ill-reputed gaming house. The other members found this funny and it became the property’s nickname.
The Royal Scots Club
29-31 Abercromby Place, Edinburgh EH3 6QE
Membership fees: From £100 per annum, plus a joining fee
Member benefits: The club offers a corporate membership option that includes a range of perks, such as complimentary drop-in meeting facilities for up to six people, secure wifi, special overnight accommodation rates, members’ room hire rates for meetings, corporate networking events, a wine-buying club with discounted fine wines, a £150 annual voucher towards meeting room hire, a £50 annual voucher to use in the dining room and access to a worldwide network of reciprocal clubs.
Facilities: The UNESCO World Heritage site offers a range of meeting and event facilities and can accommodate up to 200 people. It also has 25 bedrooms.
Background: The Royal Scots Club proudly maintains its ties to the armed services, although it is now open to men and women from all walks of life.
St Paul’s Club
34 St Paul’s Square, Birmingham B3 1QZ
Membership fees: Available on application
Member benefits: St Paul’s Club offers members several networking opportunities, from its daily luncheon to exclusive events. Other benefits include lunch any day of the week without the need for a reservation, use of the facilities for meetings with preferential booking for members, reduced rates on business club lunches and access to reciprocal clubs.
Facilities: The club features a formal dining room that seats up to 52, a committee room with space for up to 12 and a variety of other rooms that can accommodate up to 30 people.
Background: Founded in 1859, St Paul’s Club is Birmingham’s oldest. Originally comprising local manufacturers and merchants who met daily for lunch, it moved to St Paul’s Square in 1906. While it maintains some of its traditional values as a gentleman’s club, it is now a modern organisation for both men and women.
The Western Club
32 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow G1 3AB
Membership fees: £920 for two corporate nominees and £460 per additional member
Member benefits: The Western Club was designed for the business community and offers members a private city-centre location and access to high-quality lunches and dinners, spacious lounges with daily newspapers, a bar and brasserie, private dining facilities, meeting and seminar rooms, function suites, eight en-suite bedrooms, a range of social and networking events and arrangements with 135 reciprocal clubs worldwide.
Facilities: The property’s bright third-floor conference rooms are interconnecting and can be used individually or together. Various seating arrangements and layouts are available, with AV equipment supplied on request.
Background: The 1800s saw the growth of wealth in Glasgow and in 1825 the club was established by local businessmen and MPs. In 2000, it celebrated its 175th anniversary and is still going strong today.